Friday, 8 April 2016

Interview with A. F. Stewart

My second guest today is A.F. Stewart. A.F. is a sci-fi and fantasy geek, born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her genres of choice are dark fantasy and horror, but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction.

Hi A.F., welcome to Just Books. I know you're busy with the Brain to Books Cyber Convention, so I'll jump straight into the interview.
Would you please start by telling us when you first knew you wanted to be a writer...?
I’ve always being scribbling one thing or another since I was a child: poems, stories, all sorts of bits and pieces. It seemed like a natural progression to give writing a whirl. Through the years I tried off and on to get published, but only started pursuing it seriously as a profession in 2007.

...And what motivates you to write?
The why of my writing is simple: it’s a part of me. Ideas, the voices in my head, tumble out and clamour to be written onto the page.

Where the idea for Ruined City come from?
The idea for Ruined City started with a short story I wrote called Winter’s Bane, and an idea for self-imposed writing challenge. I read this review of a book where the storyline consisted of interwoven short stories, and I thought that sounded like an intriguing premise for a novel. Upon further thought, a full length novel seemed a bit daunting, so I scaled it down to a novella, and went from there. I had already written Winter’s Bane, and felt a book could be written around its plot and world, and Ruined City was born.

Which, if any, of your personality traits did you write into your characters?
Hopefully the good traits (any and all enmity, predatory behaviour, and zealotry is purely fictional). I’d say we share perseverance and loyalty, and the character of Eldren is a good (and patient) researcher, so there’s that.

Did you develop characters from your personal experiences or draw from that of others...?
Frankly, I’m never sure where the development of my characters comes from; I just listen to their voices in my heads telling me what to write. I suppose it’s an amalgam of experience and observation, but I don’t consciously draw from anything.

...And which of your characters do you relate to the most?
I think that would probably be Gellen. He’s the most pragmatic of all my characters, and the most down-to earth. Although, he’s a bit more outgoing than I am.

Please give us some insight into your main character.
Ruined City doesn’t really have a “main character” (unless you count the city of Elowen) as each chapter story focuses on a different character. But all the characters have one thing in common: living with real, and ongoing, tragedy and horror.

Who is your favourite character from Ruined City and why?
I have a soft spot for Mordren, in part since he stars in Winter’s Bane the short story that started it all. And there’s more to his tale, a few secrets I’d like to explore further.

"I’d love to visit Ireland, as I adore Celtic mythology."

Please describe your favourite scene or chapter in Ruined City and tell us why it’s your favourite?
I love the story of Pax in the tale Starting Over, of a man looking for redemption, but still consumed by guilt. And there’s one certain scene between him and the ghost of his wife where you learn his secret. There’s something sad and poignant about that scene, yet still frightening and disconcerting. I think we all have regrets, although probably not as drastic or as literal as the one Pax faces.

Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
I found writing the story of Trading Day difficult and frustrating. Possibly because it stepped outside the narrative a bit, and showed the city and its curse from an outside perspective. I think switching my mind set made the story more challenging to write. I believe the story is a necessary part of Ruined City, but it’s still my least favourite part of the book.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Names are very important; for me characters need a name that fits them. I generally use a combination of methods to choose: how it sounds, what letter it starts with, meanings, how many syllables, etc.. I roll them around in my head until I find one that clicks. For invented fantasy names such as in Ruined City, I sometimes start with a fantasy name generator, and then twist and tweak until I have what I want.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?
Since there are so many characters, I’ll just give a quick list (illustrating my clear preference for British actors):
  • Narwis: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Eldren: Tom Mison
  • Gellen: Gary Oldman
  • Gailas: Eddie Redmayne
  • Pax: Tom Hardy
  • King Ashyr and Queen Isandel: Colin Firth and Cate Blanchett
  • Nisee: Carey Mulligan
  • Mordren: Tom Hiddleston
  • Jair: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
The cover of Ruined City is actually a second design. I was perusing the internet looking for designers, and stumbled upon the perfect cover on a pre-made design page. Alas, that design had been recently sold, but I did get lucky and find alternate cover art on that site that worked equally as well.

Who designed your book cover/s?
For Ruined City, the cover was created by Dara England (she also did the cover for Killers and Demons). The rest of my books have covers I’ve designed myself.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Yes. Like all introductions, that first impression is key. Book covers attract potential readers, and should reflect the content of the book.

Can you tell us anything about any of your current work(s)-in-progress?
I currently have three projects in various stages of completion, two steampunk novels and an epic fantasy novel. Racing the Hellfire Club is a steampunk adventure novel, The Duke’s Assassin (a working title) is a vampire horror/steampunk novel set in 19th century Canada, and The Prophecy of Seven is full of death, political conspiracies, a conniving priest, and a reluctant hero. It’s also the first novel in a planned fantasy series.

Sounds as though you're going to be very busy!
As a reader I find myself wanting to know more about the authors that write the amazing books we read, so the following questions are more personal.
Would you tell us the funniest thing that ever happened to you when you were a small child?
Apparently as a child I insisted was from Mars, and that a spaceship was coming to get me to take me back home.

Do you like to get up early or stay up late?
I guess I’m a bit in-between. I generally rise around 8 AM and head for bed around midnight (unless my pesky muse is insisting I scribble something down on paper). I am definitely not a morning person, and I need a good night’s sleep to function well.

"Book covers attract potential readers, and should reflect the content of the book."

Who is your favourite actor of your own gender?
There are many wonderful actresses out there that I admire, but I think Gillian Anderson would be at the top of my list. There’s the X-files of course, but her recent turn as a police officer in the British series The Fall was outstanding. One memorable scene from season one of that series is the phone call between her character and the killer (played by Jamie Dornan). Her character stayed calm, cool and professional, but Ms. Anderson played the emotion underneath perfectly.

Which country would you most like to visit?
I’d love to visit Ireland, as I adore Celtic mythology.

What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
A box of chocolates, a cup of tea or coffee, and curled up in bed with a good book. And possibly some ice cream.

What is your favourite holiday?
Halloween. It has candy, costumes, and scary things, what could be better.

And finally... if you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss the most and which three books would you take along?
I’d miss chocolate and coffee, and for books, I’d want The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Thank you for stopping by, A. F., enjoy the rest of your time at the Brain to Books Cyber Convention!

Find A. F. Stewart here:

Buy Ruined City here:

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