Pardon the mess, everybody; the new site is still under construction. Time to take another break from your NaNoWriMo-ing for a new author interview! This week, we'll be hearing from Annie Douglass Lima, author of the Krillonian Chronicles fantasy series. Book 3, The Student and the Slave, was just released at the end of last month.
Hi, Annie! Tell us how you started out as a writer.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall. When I was seven years old, I had a sudden inspiration for what I thought was an amazing story and decided then and there that I was going to write a book and be the world's youngest published author. I ran to my room in great excitement, found an old notebook and a pencil, and started in. Well, that first novel was never actually finished, let alone published, but it got me started. After that, I can't remember a time that I wasn't working on at least one book. Prince of Alasia, which I began in college, was the first one I finished that I thought was worth trying to get published. I looked into traditional publishing and spent a long time trying to get an agent, but to no avail. Finally I learned about Kindle Direct Publishing and did it myself the indie way, eleven years after I first started writing the book. A few months later I added the paperback edition. It was quite a thrill for me to finally fulfill my childhood dream! Now I’ve published a total of fourteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, a coloring/activity book, and five anthologies of my students’ poetry).
Pretend my readers and I are Hollywood producers and pitch The Student and the Slave to us. What’s the story premise in a nutshell, and what sets it apart from other works in the fantasy genre?
Warning : spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t read the first two books!
The Krillonian Chronicles are set in a world almost exactly like our own, except for a couple key differences, such as the popular martial art known as cavvara shil. The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.
The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world. An emperor governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia. Eight separate provinces (independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents. Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, though the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit.
In recent months, the province of Tarnestra became the first to outlaw slavery. As you can imagine, this history-making event sparked hope in the hearts of slaves throughout the empire, and for many, dreams of escape suddenly became a real possibility. As a result, in addition to freeing all its local slaves, Tarnestra has recently seen an influx of escaped slaves from Imperia and other provinces. These changes have had unfortunate effects on the economy, since many businesses cannot afford to hire as many employees and have had to shut down or cut way back. (The accepted salary for enslaved workers – paid to their owners, of course – is two-thirds what free workers earn.) Tarnestra is now dealing with huge numbers of unemployed and homeless people.
In the midst of all this, former enslaved gladiator Bensin arrives with his little sister Ellie and a couple of friends, after a harrowing escape at the end of book 2. Steene, the coach and father figure who rescued him, sacrificed himself for the rest of them and has been sentenced to a life of enslavement as the penalty for his crime. Now, Steene must adjust to living as a slave under the bratty young boy who is his new owner while trying to find a way to escape and join his loved ones in Tarnestra. This task grows more complicated when he starts to grow attached to said bratty owner. Meanwhile, Bensin searches desperately for some way to arrange (and pay for) Steene’s freedom remotely while he tries to find a job in a province where there simply aren’t any available. Though he’s looking for safe, legal, and ethical options, he discovers that the local street gangs are willing to pay top dollar for combat training from a former gladiator.
And so Steene and Bensin both find themselves facing some difficult choices.
I guess that was a pretty big nutshell! ☺
What inspired the Krillonian Chronicles?
I’ve had the idea growing in my mind for the last few years. It started as just a picture of the setting and its culture, and the plot and individual characters emerged little by little. The martial art of cavvara shil didn’t enter my imagination until just before I started drafting.
What are some of the predominant themes you explore in The Student and the Slave?
Freedom, family, responsibility, morality, tough choices.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the Krillonian Chronicles written and published, and how did you overcome it?
That was probably the research, especially in book 1. Designing cavvara shil (and the necessary training and practice for it, as well as rules of the tournaments) took a LOT of research. I am not a martial artist myself, so it was all the more difficult to make sure this martial art was feasible and would make sense to readers who practice “real” martial arts. I spent hours researching online and in books, as well as talking to athletes I know.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you develop your ideas, and what’s your balance between outlining and discovery writing?
I start by writing a brief summary of the whole book (a page or two long), then at some point I divide it up chapter by chapter, with a few sentences about what will happen in each. The details change as I go along, and I often end up with more chapters than I originally planned, but I really need that structure to get me started and keep me focused as I write. I also use the systems suggested in the books The Busy Writer’s One-Hour Character, The Busy Writer’s One-Hour Plot, and Outlining Your Novel (all of which I highly recommend). And yes, I do all of the above every time I get ready to start a new novel. I do make new discoveries as I actually write the story, and sometimes my carefully outlined plans change, but I don’t feel ready to start without several rounds of detailed outlining first.
What's your favorite music to listen to while writing?
I don’t listen to music while I write. I find it distracting.
Who are your three favorite fiction writers?
Anne Elisabeth Stengl is currently my favorite. Her YA series The Tales of Goldstone Wood is not only incredibly well-written fantasy, it is thought provoking and makes me take a second look at my own life and world. I also enjoy Ellen Gunderson Traylor and Michelle Isenhoff.
What advice would you give aspiring authors working toward publishing their own books?
Be teachable. Don’t assume you’re as good a writer as you need to be. Read writing blogs and books about the craft, join online writers’ groups, listen to others’ advice, share resources. Being part of a writing community makes a big difference and will help you grow, if you let it.
What are your future fiction-writing plans? Any teasers for your next project?
I’m working on two more novels at the moment. King of Malorn will be the next one in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series, and I’m hoping to have that published sometime before next summer. The other one is a science fiction stand-alone novel called Heartsong, which will probably be ready sometime in the spring.
Thanks, Annie! Readers, be sure to check out Annie's books on Amazon. And here are some more links you can use to find her elsewhere on the internet:
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon