Friday, 8 April 2016

Interview with Ashley Capes

My first guest today is Ashley Capes. Ashley is an Australian novelist, poet & teacher. He is the author of five novels and six poetry collections. His latest book, published earlier this year, is The Amber Isle.

Hi Ashley, thank you for joining me.
Would you like to kick off by telling us when you first realized that you wanted to be a writer?
Perhaps in high school – though I know I wrote a lot of stories in primary school too – but it was probably lyrics that led me to Beat Poetry and haiku, and The Lord of the Rings that led me to fantasy, so I was probably about 14 or 15 when I decided that I knew what I wanted to be. Gave me a bit of time to practice I think!

...And what motivates you to write?
One thing is the urge to succeed. It’s exciting and I feel like every new book is a little bit better than the last one so I’m hoping to keep that up. I’m also hoping for more in the way of a supplementary income from writing this year. I also love to hear what readers have to say about the stories I write (as all authors probably do :) ) and that’s a big one; whether it’s informal feedback or a review, it’s so nice to know what readers enjoyed (and useful to know what they didn’t.)

Where did the idea for The Amber Isle come from?
The Amber Isle was something I’d been wanting to write for a long time; I was looking for a series that was epic in scope but maybe not so much in length. And so main character, Never’s, adventures will start off as novellas and grow a little longer by the time I hit the conclusion in Book 5.

Each story will have a distinct setting and goal for my characters but I really wanted to write a unifying character arc too – hence the quest Never undertakes for the truth about his name and his past, something I’m pretty excited about writing!

Which of your characters do you relate to the most?
My main character, Never, tends to use his humour as both a weapon and a shield and I relate to that, I suspect – though I don’t think I’m actually very funny in real life. But it’s my hope that Never does give readers a few laughs – he certainly tried to keep things light, especially when he’s in trouble.

Please describe your favourite scene or chapter in The Amber Isle and tell us why it’s your favourite?
Probably when Never meets Elina, a young archer who treats him with a good deal of suspicion. And she probably should – Never is robbing the house of a village bully at the time.

I think it’s one of my favourites because even though Never faces down a drawn arrow it’s clear Elina hasn’t given up on getting to the bottom of what’s going on with him. Writing the dialogue in that scene was fun too as they’re testing each other out so that usually makes for good tension in a scene.

"I do love the different kind of hush from the very early morning when few if any walk the streets, but it’s rare that I see that nowadays."

Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
Tough question! Maybe none of them – for some reason, this has been one of the easiest books I’ve written so far, perhaps because I had a lot of fun during? Other books have been a long struggle but this one not so much.
But I do remember that getting the fight scene that reveals the inner workings of Never’s curse took a few drafts, I had to juggle action and character thoughts without ‘slowing the fight down’, so that took some work.

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
Very! They not only add consistency and depth to the cultural aspects of the world-building but names can be a lot of fun – they can reveal something about the characters themselves. My chief example from The Amber Isle is obviously ‘Never’ my main character.

He has a name that’s reasonably unusual, which I hope makes it memorable, but there is a reason behind it – in that Never’s brother named him when they were boys. And that name, that search for identity, is a key part of the story. Why wouldn’t Never’s mother or father name him? It’s a question I plan to reveal only in the fullness of time!

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?
Unknowns perhaps? That’s a tough question too, I’ve been thinking it over for a while and I think I’m having trouble because I’m seeing my favourite actors locked into their key roles, if that makes sense? It’s hard to place them into the setting for the Never books. If I knew more Spanish actors I’d probably place someone who might be best known for comedy/action films in the role of ‘Never’ :)

Can you tell us about the cover and how it came about?
I contracted Lin Hsiang through DeviantArt and was thrilled – with only a rough outline provided by me, he came up with exactly what I wanted! I love the dramatic light and the lantern itself, the glow from the Amber Isle and the use of shadow, everything, really :)

Very happy to be working with him again for the future Never books – we have the covers ready for books 1-3 and will work on 4 and 5 over the course of the year and I’m very excited. Seeing an artist create a cover for one of your books is one of the biggest thrills of being a writer for me!

Would you like to say anything about any of your current work(s)-in-progress?
Absolutely :) My publisher, Snapping Turtle Books, is going to release Greatmask, the conclusion to my Bone Mask Trilogy this year and I plan to keep self-publishing too.

I’m hoping to have the rest of the ‘Never’ books out by the end of the year and also release a supernatural thriller set in America. It will probably be called Fallow-Man and I’ll be using the scarecrow as a figure of the unknown in that one. The other project I’m really excited about is The Moss Dragon of Brittle Keep, which I also hope to release this year but I’m not very far into that one yet.

It all sounds very exciting. I'm looking forward to the release of the final installment of the Bone Mask Trilogy.
Let's leave the books for now and find out some random things about you.
Do you like to get up early or stay up late?
I’m definitely a bit of a night owl – I find the night quiet and easier to block out distractions from phone calls or traffic or whatever it may be. I also tend to find myself interacting with US readers and writers late at night (AU time) so that’s one aspect of it – and undeniably, since I teach full-time I must use the evening and night to write.

I do love the different kind of hush from the very early morning when few if any walk the streets, but it’s rare that I see that nowadays.

Which country would you most like to visit?
I’d love to re-visit Italy. I love the history within the buildings, it’s seeped so deep into the stones there – but it’s also the food and the very sound of the cities, the language and the music.

I’m attracted to the idea of returning to Italy in part also because there’s a lot more of the countryside that I’d like to see, so I feel like there was too much of Italy that I missed.

"Seeing an artist create a cover for one of your books is one of the biggest thrills of being a writer for me!"

What was the last concert you went to? Would you tell us about it?
I think it was Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro, a funk/jazz band from Japan. They’re a little bit like The Metres with more jazz and basically a bigger, more modern sound. At the time I had all three of their albums and had never seen them – the last time they toured I missed them because I didn’t even know they were in Australia. lol

Lots of great bands tour here but sometimes you miss the announcements if you’re not looking the right way. Australia can be described in terms of the great ‘tyranny of distance’ – for a band to tour here from the US or UK is SO expensive due to that distance.

Final question, Ashley.
If you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss the most and which three books would you take along?
I love this sort of question because I find myself changing my mind nearly each time – but one book I would take would be The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami for its surrealism and an omnibus edition of The Lord of the Rings (I’m cheating a bit there) along with a collection of haiku, probably one of Basho’s I think.

I’d miss music – it would be a hard slog while waiting for the rescue party without some music to help get me through.

Thanks again for joining us, Ashley. Good luck with the rest of the Brain to Books Cyber Convention.

Find Ashley here:

Buy The Amber Isle here:

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