Author Interview – Nicole Luiken

I have been digging Nicole Luiken’s Kandrith novels of late; I already reviewed Gate to Kandrith and I just finished Soul of Kandrith, which was the first book I ever preordered for my Kindle. I just loved these books so I was thrilled to do this interview with Nicole. Although these books are labeled fantasy romance, they are fantasy first, in my mind.

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About Nicole

Nicole Luiken wrote her first book at age 13 and never stopped.

She is the author of eight published books for young adults, including Violet Eyes and its sequel Silver Eyes, Frost, Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Dreamfire and the sequel Dreamline. She also has an adult thriller, Running on Instinct, under the name N.M. Luiken and a fantasy romance ebook, Gate to Kandrith.

Nicole lives with her family in Edmonton, AB. It is physically impossible for her to go more than three days in a row without writing.

Would you tell us a little about Soul of Kandrith?

Soul of Kandrith is the second book in a epic fantasy series.  Although there is a strong romantic subplot, the main plot is fantasy.  Kandrith is a tiny country created by magic and founded by ex-slaves that exists in the middle of the corrupt Republic of Temboria.  At the beginning of Gate to Kandrith an uneasy peace exists between the two because of the Hostage Pact.

GateToKandrithSoul of Kandrith deals with the consequences of the end of Gate to Kandrith, the breaking of the Hostage Pact and the more personal ramifications of Sara’s sacrifice.  Kandrith has a one-year reprieve before the Republic of Temboria invades again.  Lance is sent on a mission to encourage a rebellion in one of the Republic’s conquered provinces.  Because of the Republic’s many Legions, the rebellion is doomed unless Lance can teach the rebels magic and even the scales a little.  But, of course, there are complications, one of them being Lance’s determination to help Sara get her soul back.

At their heart, both Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith are about slavery.

How long did it take you to write Soul of Kandrith?

I started the first draft of Soul of Kandrith as part of nanowrimo in 2009, but had to continue into December to finish.  The novel then lay fallow until I received word that Gate to Kandrith had been accepted for publication.  I wrote the 2nd and 3rd drafts in an over-lapping fashion from August 2011 to June 2012.  Then editorial revisions in August.  In total I probably spent a full year writing it.

Tells us about your favorite scene in Soul of Kandrith.SoulOfKandrith

Ooh, that’s tough.  I have a certain fondness for the hard-boiled egg scene [in which the soulless Sara is indifferent to the pain of reaching into a pot of boiling water to bring out the eggs]–I think it’s memorable because it shows just how far to the left of center Sara has gone.  I like action scenes, and I’m quite proud of the whole Legion at the Gate section and, of course, the climax.  For romantic scenes I like the bath scene and the bargaining-for-kisses scene…  I could go on and on.

I sometimes think my goal when I’m editing is to make every scene a favourite scene.  The first draft has a lot dull transition scenes that take the plot from point A to point B, and I work hard to transform those scenes into something enjoyable.

Tia aside–I name my scenes too! That’s how I end up with chapter names.

Can you tell us about any scene that gave you trouble?

The first scenes with soulless-Sara were horrible to write. At this point, Sara doesn’t understand emotion, doesn’t feel pain and fear.  I couldn’t even use the word ‘smile’ or ‘frown’, but had to rely entirely on visual clues like ‘his lips curved up’.  And yet they were critical in giving the reader a tiny bit of hope for the future and in showing Sara’s growth throughout the book, how she slowly begins to experience emotions again, first mild ones such as irritation and liking then growing into hate and love.

What  draws you to writing epic fantasy?

I love reading epic fantasy.  My husband and I can endlessly discuss Jordan’s The Wheel of Time or Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.  I’m eagerly awaiting book of Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive and am halfway through Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s fear.  I love entering new worlds and learning about their quirks and customs and magic.  I had great fun coming up with Kandrith’s magic system.

I was afraid to try my hand at epic for many years because I’m not good at description, something that is crucial for fantasy.  (It’s not that I can’t write description, it’s that it feels like three times as much work as writing dialogue or action.)  I eventually realized my problem was that I hadn’t put enough thought into the setting, that writing a description of yet-another smoke-stained inn with a beer-sticky floor and a pot of stew bored me because I’d read hundred of other stories with the exact same inn.  The challenge then became to come up with something different:  an inn that was also the Temple of Jut, God of Travellers.
When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

For the most part I am.  I plot my novels out before typing chapter one, but I’m a firm believer that if a character balks at a scene it’s a sign from my unconscious that I’ve taken a wrong turn with the plot–usually this just involves backing up a page and taking another run at it.

However, one of my characters did give me serious trouble when I was writing Soul of Kandrith: the villain, Nir, high priest of the God of War.  He ran roughshod over my outline and wrenched the plot into a much darker place than I had intended to go.  The meeker way I’d asked him to behave in the outline was, quite simply, out of character.

What advice do you have for other writers?

If you’re a beginning writer, let some time lapse between your first draft and your second.  This will give you some emotional distance and allow you to come at revisions from a fresher perspective and with a keener eye.  Nobody writes a perfect first draft.
What authors or stories inspired you to write?

The books that leave me inspired and eager to write are usually books about writing.  I wrote my first book (at age thirteen) because I happened to take a book out of the library called Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney. How to Write Best-selling Fiction by Dean Koontz, Writing the Block Buster Novel by Albert Zuckerman are sources I’ve gone back to over and over.  I also love the craft notes J.R. Ward included in The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide.

My favourite SF and Fantasy authors are Lois McMaster Bujold, Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs.  I buy them in hardcover.  My favourite romance author is Suzanne Brockmann.
9.     The Kandrith series is a duology. Do you have any plans to write any more stories in this fascinating, pseudo-Roman world?

I have a short story telling Rhiain’s origins that I’ve toyed with lengthening and putting up as a freeread, but for the most part no.  The duology gives Lance and Sara a HEA and I wouldn’t want to upset that by writing another book.  Plus, there are lots of other stories in my head clamouring for attention.

10.  Is there anything you wish I had asked, or that you would like to add?

I’d just like to add that sample chapters of Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith can be found on my website: www.nicoleluiken.com

Nicole’s Links:

Website GoodreadsFacebook fan page Twitter

Last Week, This Week

Well, in case you missed it, I was hacked last week and I am squatting here on WordPress.com. I have decided to make this my permanent home, but my hosting plan is still active for several months. I am trying to figure out what else I need to get out of that database before I shut everything down. I have already successfully retrieved my newsletter subscribers (yay!) and my links (yay!) and so I may be finished.

As for plugins, I don’t think I’ll miss them. Happily, most of the things I used plugins for are simply included here at WordPress. Other things I was inspired to learn, such as the art of using div tags for layout. The only things I have not been able to replace were my newsletter system (which was powered by a plugin) and my backup system. I am not yet sure how WordPress.com handles backups. It didn’t actually do me much good to have a backup anyway, because I have no idea when the hack took place and it involved a vulnerability in my database that I needed my host provider to fix.

As for my newsletter, I went back to MailChimp.

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Speaking of newsletters, I am preparing my spring issue and I thought I’d mention that I am putting a special prize pack together, consisting of:

  1. The winner’s choice of one of the following:
    * Synopsis and Query Help
    * First 30 Pages Critique
    * Extended excerpt from my next book, Magic by Midnight
  2. A surprise recommended ebook gifted from the winner’s choice of Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or one of my books if the winner chooses. I’ve even had people ask me to send the copy then won to a friend. Winner’s choice.

Also, during this next issue, I will be issuing a “street team” invitation. This is something that every struggling new writer needs, and struggling describes me perfectly. I feel kind of funny trying to organize a street team (because what if no one signs up), but if I am serious about getting Magic by Starlight out in print and onto bookstore shelves–and I am–I need to start now.

One thing you will definitely get for joining my street team is an early copy of Magic by Starlight. This is absolutely critical, for the whole point of the street team is to get people out there generating buzz, and you will need something to buzz about. I am still working on what will be in the rest of the gift pack; the details will be in the newsletter first.

You can sign up for the newsletter here. Thirty-two people already have!

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Last week I had to inform my guest, Nicole Luiken, that my blog was hacked, and I took down her post until I could get everything working again. Since it was only up a few hours, I am going to repost it this week. Nicole is the author of the excellent fantasy duology, Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith. I loved them both and I was excited about having her as a guest. Too bad a hacker had to ruin it.

Also this week, I have written a post on writing descriptions, using a country music song as an example.

Plus, I have two reviews to write (at least!) so I hope to have one posted by Thursday.

Hope to see you in the comment threads!

Hacked; In Temporary Home

My website was hacked for the 2nd time in 3 months, so I have moved into WordPress. com. Please pardon the dust. I had four sidebars at my last blog and now I must make do with one. I was working on making a sidebar for each book. Sigh.

The problem is my domain provider refuses to upgrade their MySql to the latest version, even though the version they are using has a known vulnerability where a malicious user can change your MySql password and do whatever the heck they want. The fix that I was able to use last time did not work this time, so I gave up and moved to WordPress.com.  I will probably become a premium user in very short order, or I will find a much more professional web host provider. I guess I know what I will be doing this weekend!

Fortunately, the posts and pages were not corrupted. I checked. The hack does not manifest itself here So I was able to import the content of my site. I am not sure how long I’ll be able to keep my images; when I move to a permanent home, all my images will most likely evaporate. I’ll have to find something better than hosting my images at my site.

So I am sad. I worked very hard on that website, and much of that work was wasted due to a malicious user.

Infographic – Genres to Read to Improve Writing Skills

I have never been one to read any particular genre exclusively. I have enjoyed most every genre as a reader. And from each genre, I have learned things about writing. things. I noticed that each genre seems to have an area of expertise. I decided to write a blog topic about it, but I decided an infographic would be more fun, so here it is!

WritingSkillsbyGenre

Click to see full-sized image.

 You can download the PDF here.

I'm Back!

Sorry for the unplanned hiatus. The last few weekends were VERY busy and I do most of my blog writing on the weekend.

I do have plans for this week! On Thursday I have an interview of an author of a book that I reviewed here recently–one of the books I loved. I have not done an interview in a long time and I am excited to have her.

I also just finished another infographic! I enjoy putting those together and I’m thinking of writing a series of blog posts based on this latest infographic. I’ll try to get that posted on Tuesday.

I have also been VERY busy with writing. I finished revising my 82,000 word Austenpunk urban fantasy, which I finally named Magic by Starlight. I love that title, and I love my changes. It’s amazing how much I ripped up things that I thought were quite good back when I wrote it the first time. We’re talking scenes that I loved. When I read them this time? Not so much love there.

Soon, I hope to be able to take it through my Manuscript Clean-Up Process. Oh look! Another potential infographic!

What's Up, and What's Up?

Sorry no post! I was visiting family last weekend so I didn’t have a post ready for last week.

What’s up with me? Not too much. I’m working hard on re-polishing a novel that I want to start submitting again. Some of you will recognize it–it is the Austenpunk fantasy that I used to write about on my old writing blog. I’m not sure yet if I want to submit to agents or publishers, or attempt to go it alone. What do you think? If I do it myself, then I can publish it on all the major platforms as well as CreateSpace for a hardcopy version. But I think that would be biting off more than I can chew, at present. I’d have to devote all my vacation time to it, because I don’t have much time otherwise.

If you’re not familiar with it, it is a spy fantasy taking place in a secondary world during a Regency-like era. Hence my calling it “Austenpunk”. It is by far the lightest novel I ever wrote. Have a short excerpt of the current opening:

Saturday Night, 10:15 PM

Starcaster Bureau Headquarters

It’s unsettling to realize that you’re good at something of which you disapprove.

I do approve of spying. The Tarch dictatorship’s ambition for Alden’s part of the Aldainian Peninsula could not be denied, and war is a murky business. I also approve of theft if it keeps national enemies from achieving their objectives. I even approve of subterfuge, since in the spying game, the other person is usually trying to deceive you as well—if they can get away with it.

However, breaking men’s hearts in order to beguile them out their secrets—it didn’t sit well with me. And it wasn’t mere missishness, even if that’s what certain people thought. I had too much firsthand experience of that sort of betrayal. There was once a certain young man, and he…well, if that secret were to ever emerge, it would cost me my career, and possibly my father his barony.

And so, even though I am the very epitome of homespun and ordinary, with brown hair, brown eyes, and worst of all, freckles—I work as a fem. And despite my attitude and appearance, I seemed to be good at it. By this time, I had a short string of fem successes under my bonnet. Some people say that I succeed because my appearance forbids suspicion. However, tonight I did not succeed.

I am thinking about serializing it on Wattpad. I have not yet been brave enough to do so. Are any of you on Wattpad? If you are, please let me know. It might be easier if I knew a friendly face or two!

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The other thing I’ve been up to is trying to find a platform to re-launch Debuts & Reviews. I have been experimenting with Dupral, which is too complicated, and another platform that I cannot recall, which would require too much moderation, and BuddyPress, which I can plug into WordPress, either this blog or another one I’d set up for that purpose. BuddyPress might be winning, but first I would like to play around with other BuddyPress sites, to see if it is what I am looking for.

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Other than that, I finished reading a book or two, and I might have a review for you later this week. What about you? Find anything interesting online that you would like to share? Read any good books lately?