Welcome to fellow Brit, Cas Peace, author of King’s Envoy and King’s Champion
(books one and two in the Artesans of Albia fantasy series) and For the Love of Daisy, which she wrote about her Dalmatian dog. Besides being an author, Cas is a freelance editor, crazy about animals and also a folk singer.
What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?
I do write for a living, although because I am fairly new to being published, the word ‘living’ doesn’t mean much yet. I’m hoping it will in due course! But I’m also a freelance editor, proofreader and creative writing coach, so I do get an income from that. But it’s small because I don’t have set prices. I like helping writers, so I only ask for what each individual can afford.
My first published book (2008) was non-fiction. Entitled For the Love of Daisy, it is the life story of a Dalmatian I used to own. She was a beautiful and fabulous dog, but at age 10 she suffered disc disease. The operation she had didn’t do what it should have, and she was left partially paralysed. We took her for lots of therapy to help her and I wanted to write a book about what we did, so other pet owners could help their own pets. In 2011, the first book in my fantasy series Artesans of Albia was published by Rhemalda Publishing. It is called King’s Envoy. Book two, King’s Champion, was published this year. King’s Artesan will be published in July 2013.
What works in progress do you have?
My Artesans series contains nine books in all; it’s a triple trilogy. All the books are written already, but not all are completely edited. Also, because Rhemalda are a US publishing house and I’m British, I have to convert my book to suit an American readership. So that is ongoing at present. I also have an idea for a prequel to the series and I have half a dozen chapters written so far.
How long did it take you to write your book/s?
I began my fantasy series in 2001, and basically just kept writing. I completed what I thought was the first book in a year, but it was so long that it ended up being 3 books – the first trilogy in fact. Then I wrote three more books (all as one) the next year, making 6 books in two years. I had a brief break to write Daisy, which took me about 6 months, and then I wrote the final part of the Artesans trilogy, also in a year.
Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?
With my fantasy books, I wrote linear. When I went back over them to do edits, I sometimes added in an extra scene or two at different places. All these books were completely unplanned. I definitely wrote by the seat of my pants and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I actually found it hard to stop writing – for things like dinner, for example – because the ideas just kept coming. Weekends were painful because I couldn’t write at all, but I had to keep a notebook handy, so I could jot down all the ideas and plot twists in case I forgot them!
My non-fiction book was planned, because it had to reflect a true story, so that was written calmly and in chronological order. I didn’t get the same adrenaline rush from writing it, but because of the nature of the story, it was a cathartic experience.
Why do you write?
Initially I wrote because I couldn’t stop. I never intended to be a writer, although I’d always enjoyed writing as a kid, and used to scribble little stories and poems. But writing a whole fantasy series and becoming a published author came as a complete surprise to me. The first book started out as this tiny little scene I’d had in my head since watching a kid’s TV programme in the ‘70s, and one day I wrote it out because I was bored. That act seemed to open floodgates I never knew were there, and the ideas just kept coming. Now, after having written 10 books, I just love the craft. And that’s why I became an editor and writing coach, so I could help others do the same.
Where and when do you write? Do you have set times?
When I’m actively writing (as opposed to editing) I write full time. I’m lucky in that I can work from home, so I can write for as long as I like. I rely on my two dogs to tell me when to take a break; otherwise I can remain wrapped up in my work so much that I forget to eat. In my old house, which is where I began my fantasy series, I had a conservatory where I could write. This was only okay in good weather, as there was no winter heating. In a hot summer, though, it often got too hot and bright in there. In my new house I have a study – luxury! – for the cold or overly bright days, and a (heated!) conservatory for the rest of the time. I’m extremely lucky.
Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?
I’m not actually like any of my characters, although there are aspects of me in most of them. My main male character, Taran, lacks self-confidence. This is his downfall and it leads to the main part of the plot. My main female lead, Sullyan, is the complete opposite. She is very comfortable with who she is, and although she wields vast powers, she is never overbearing or proud. She understands Taran’s frustrations and undertakes to teach him; something he never imagined would happen. If I’m honest, Taran is closer to who I really am, while Sullyan is who I would really like to be!
What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?
A good novel has to have compelling action; credible characters with a wide range of characteristics, both good and bad; an interesting setting, and a plot your readers can care about. It should also have a clear writing style, free of clichés and over-flowery description.
If you had to pick some actors/actresses to play the characters in your book, who would you hire?
There is a character in my fantasy series that is based on a real person and some of the characters he has portrayed. UK actor Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the Lord of the Rings and Lord Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones, was the model for the Albian High King, Elias Rovannon. Elias was actually based on Richard Sharpe, the character that Sean Bean played in the TV film series of Bernard Cornwell’s military novels. I’d love to see Sean play Elias in a film version of my books, but time is slipping by. Elias is 33, and Sean is now over 50, so it might never happen!
Fave things: animal? food? drink? film? colour? band? song? place? item of clothing?
I am an animal person, mainly dogs and horses. I qualified as a horse riding instructor when I left school and worked at a high class stables for three years. I then got my own horse. When I was growing up, I dearly wanted a dog, but we couldn’t have one, so I made friends with all the neighbourhood dogs. As soon as I got my own place to live, I got dogs and I’ve had them ever since. Mainly they are rescues, because there are so many wonderful abandoned dogs. I’d give each one a home if I could! But I also love singing, mainly folk songs. I write and perform folk songs, and there are songs associated with my fantasy books. The details are mentioned in another answer below.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do/who did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid my dearest wish was to own a horse and be a showjumper. It was all I ever thought about. My parents could never afford a pony, but I did get to take some riding lessons. I wasn’t very good at riding because I have lousy balance, but I did get better when I was an adult. I eventually realised my dream of owning a horse, but I don’t have one now.
Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?
The dream of owning a horse certainly came true, and that’s the only ‘dream’ I really had. But I’m thinking of new ones every day and the one I have now is to have my books enjoyed by a wide range of readers. I’m not so bothered about making heaps of money – that’s not what writing was all about for me – but to know that others have enjoyed my work and got emotionally connected to it as I did, now that is a dream I’d love to see come true!
Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?
I am fortunate enough to be ‘traditionally’ published, and even more fortunate that my publisher is anything but traditional. After nine years of submitting to agents and publishing houses (UK ones at first, but then international too), I was about to give up and self-publish my fantasy series. It was terribly frustrating because I had received so many favourable comments in my rejections; they all encouraged me to continue the journey and said I would find a home for my work eventually.
After exhausting every possibility, I was faced with either starting with the same ones all over again (hoping their editors had changed) or going the self-publishing route. Then I saw a post on Facebook mentioning Rhemalda Publishing, which I had never heard of. I did some research and despite them being a new company, I liked what I saw. I submitted and they asked for the full MS. Waiting for their final decision was agonising, and when they came back with a very enthusiastic acceptance, I couldn’t believe it! That was 2010, and I could not be happier with them. They fulfil every mission statement on their website and are a joy to work with.
How do you find the marketing experience?
Marketing is, of course, a totally different experience to being published. It did come as something of a shock, the amount of marketing I had to take on. At first I floundered, not really knowing what to do or how to do it, and it wasn’t something I thought I’d ever enjoy. But I have a USP (unique selling point) and that is the folk songs associated with my books. I have a background as a folk singer and my books incorporate songs that I have recorded, so I find that radio stations are particularly interested in my work.
I have done quite a few interviews for various radio stations – digital as well as internet based – and some have added the song from my first book, King’s Envoy, to their playlists. This song, The Wheel Will Turn, is available as a free download, both from the Rhemalda website and my own, and it has proved hugely popular. The next song, The Ballad of Tallimore, which should be released soon, will also be offered free.
There will eventually be a song for each of the nine books, plus an overall instrumental theme. I don’t know any other fantasy author who has recorded songs contained in their books, and that makes mine unique. I think that’s the key to marketing – find your USP and it will make your task much easier.
What advice would you give other writers just starting out?
The advice I would give is:
1) Do your research. Don’t waste time submitting to the wrong people and make sure you follow the guidelines of the right people.
2) Be professional and polite at all times, even (especially) on sites like Facebook. Agents and publishers will research prospective authors too – make sure you are the kind of person they would want to work with. Remember, publishing is a partnership, and you both have to respect each other and get along.
3) Be prepared to take advice, even the hard advice. If an agent or publisher takes the time to make a personal response, take good note of what they say. If they advise getting an editor to look over your work, get one! If they tell you your style needs work, work on it! Professional feedback – even if it’s not what you want to hear – is incredibly valuable. Don’t squander or ignore it.
4) Be persistent! If you get even the smallest hint of encouragement, DON’T GIVE UP.
Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?
I do have a blog, and I use it whenever I feel I have something worthwhile to say. This June, I flew to the States to attend Rhemalda’s first ever reading and writing conference. It was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, and it was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet Rhett and Emmaline Hoffmeister, president and vice-president of Rhemalda, face to face. I gave a talk on ‘Fantasy World Building’, and also met my fellow authors. It was one of the best experiences of my life. After that, I spent 10 days in Yellowstone National Park, and the two experiences were so fabulous that I had to write a series of blog posts. Apart from that, I’ve written about the fantastic metal sculpture that a local artist was inspired to create from the cover of King’s Envoy, and also my two dogs, Milly and Milo.
What other hobbies do you have?
I’ve already mentioned the folk singing, which I really enjoy. I am a member of my local church choir, and also our village’s Drama Society. The music group I belong to often performs at various village functions. Animal charities are big concerns of mine, and I adore dogs and horses. I am a qualified horse riding instructor and used to own my own horse. I love carriage driving too, and used to compete in carriage dressage and cross-country. I have grown cacti for many years and some of my plants have won prizes.
What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
In five years’ time most of my fantasy novels should be published. I have a prequel that I’m working on, so maybe there will also be other books in the pipeline. But my dearest wish is that people will be reading and enjoying my work. If I can be known as a good writer of fantasy novels, and also a singer that people enjoy listening to, then I will be very happy. I would also love it if I have helped other writers achieve publication – that is something I feel quite passionate about. There are plenty of wonderful writers out there, and some of them just need a little help with either their grammar or their style, or some other aspect of their work. I want to make that help affordable for them, so they can go ahead and realise their dreams of publication.
I’d like to say a big Thank You to Vickie for having me on her blog today – Vickie, I really appreciate it! I hope everyone enjoys my answers to her questions. If any of you would like to contact me regarding my writers’ services, please visit my website where you can read testimonials or email me at cas(at)caspeace(dot)com. I look forward to hearing from you.
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