I met Victoria via google+. I enjoyed many of her posts there and eventually we fell to chatting about writing. I decided to download her novel The Crimson League and discovered a delightful fantasy novel. Naturally, I needed to invite her for an interview here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Victoria Grefer. I’m a fantasy novelist, and I’ve always loved language, especially foreign languages. I studied Spanish in college, and I’m fluent. I can also read French and Portuguese. I love American football, and even once had a professor tell me once, “It’s not often you associate the hyper-intellectual with the sports fan.” I still don’t know whether to consider that a compliment or to be offended, but I know my football stats. I also love cats, and cribbage, and sitcoms.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing in the third grade. My first stories were about me and my friends solving mysteries. They were short, and no one ever knew who the “bad guy” would be; I didn’t exactly have a real plot or context clues in place. I started writing because I had always loved stories. I loved reading, especially Nancy Drew books.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The moment I first considered myself a writer was when I finished the first draft of my second novel. I was twenty-two, and really excited to have two novels under my belt. A first edited novel—no matter how bad it was, and believe me, mine’s pretty bad—and a completed draft of something else helped me find the confidence to call myself a writer.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
My most recent book is titled The King’s Sons. It’s book three in my Herezoth trilogy, wrapping everything up, so writing it was an emotional experience.
Herezoth is a fictional kingdom where some people are born with magic in their blood, though the majority aren’t. True sorcerers are rare, as magic was forsworn through the ages as public opinion turned against it. Nevertheless, sorcerers still are born on occasion. Most “magicians” in Herezoth have remnants of sorcery, which means they are born with a single, subtler power: telekinesis, or the ability to read minds through touch, for example. Each installment of my trilogy involves the heroes standing up against an enemy who can bring powerful magic to his or her aid.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote a first and then a second Herezoth novel. Then I realized my characters weren’t finished. My sorceress protagonist from book one, the king, the sorcerer Duke of Ingleton: my favorite characters were screaming at me that they had unfinished business.
I’m so glad I wrote The King’s Sons. I love how the plot of book three is the cumulative effect of events that unfold both in book one and book two. Magical artifacts that appear in book one to a small degree become vital to efforts to maintain peace in the final installment.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My teacher in my senior-level English class once told me, “You write like Hemingway.” What she meant is that I value clarity and conciseness over baubles and a string of dependent clauses. I say what needs to be said with as few words as possible and little adornment. I admire writers who can write beautiful, breathtaking scenes of description, but that’s not something I’m good at.
One other thing associated with my style is that each of my novels is a completed story in itself. That’s why I was able to have book two take place fifteen years after book one. Book three takes place ten years after book two.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Book one in my trilogy is titled The Crimson League, after a resistance group that rises up to fight a sorcerer who has stolen the crown. Book two is titled The Magic Council. Since I was writing a trilogy, I wanted a title for book three that fit the mold: The (Descriptor) (Noun). I settled on The King’s Sons because it draws attention to two of my favorite characters: Hune Phinnean, the youngest of three princes, and protagonist Vane Unsten, the Duke of Ingleton. He considers the king the closest thing to a father he’s ever known.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I didn’t write with a message in mind. That said, I think there’s a strong thematic link between all three installments of my trilogy: the necessity in this world of taking a stand for what is right and being faithful, honest, and selfless, even when the price for that is heavy. Dignity and self-respect are priceless.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I was surprised when I started editing The King’s Sons to realize my life situation at the moment I was writing was reflected in the story, although distorted, of course. One character named Francie, a member of the king’s Magic Council, is attacked and almost killed after ten years of service. (This is the prologue, so it’s not a spoiler). This brings about a quarter-life crisis.
When I wrote about Francie, I was considering withdrawing from a doctoral program in Spanish literature, though I was in my third year and had already earned a Master’s degree. I had always thought I wanted to be a professor; I had gotten things wrong, and a lot of what Francie struggles with on an existential level in The King’s Sons, I also was confused about. Frustrated about.
I did leave my program. It was the right call for me. Honestly, I think developing the character of Francie and seeing her overcome much greater obstacles than what I faced gave me the courage to make that decision.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was my first introduction to fantasy literature, and made me fall in love with magic. My personal novels owe a lot to her. As a writer, I admire how Rowling never gave up, even though she was rejected many times by agents. I also admire the depth and heart to be found in Rowling’s secondary characters. Not just everyone can achieve that, and I feel that the overall richness of her cast of characters by far outweighs any of the problems with her books. I strive to make sure my secondary characters have depth like that.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?
Victor Hugo. His masterpiece Les Misérables is by far my favorite novel ever written, for the beauty of its story and its message of faith, sacrifice, and redemption. It truly has helped shape the person that I am. I learned French to be able to read the book as Hugo wrote it!
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Brad Covey designed my covers. He approached me, after we met on Twitter and became friends, with some ideas and proofs for covers, and I was thrilled to go along with them. He is talented, friendly, and always willing and able to incorporate any needs the author has. I am constantly getting compliments on the covers he designed for me.
I love how Brad’s covers—through the use of architecture and statuary—not only designate fantasy very clearly, but also hint of the richness of Herezoth’s history. The legacy of magic and magic’s abuse in the past is something my characters cannot avoid, no matter how they try.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write for you, not to please others. This is key. So key, in fact, that the title of my upcoming writer’s handbook, expanded from the content on my blog, is Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.
Write to fulfill whatever part of you needs to create in order to feel fulfilled. Be pleased with your stumbles, not frustrated, as long as they’re stumbles propelling you in the right direction. Remember, we all need time to figure out the way to approach writing that works for us, personally, because no two writers have the same process. It’s a very individual thing. Never think you’re doing something wrong because you’re doing it differently than someone else.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for taking the time to give me and my novels a chance. It’s very humbling when some tells me they’re reading my novel; that means more to me than I can say.
Cover Artist: Brad Covey