It is my pleasure to participate in a blog tour promoting Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s book, Dragonwitch, that released this month.
First, a little about the author:
Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.
And now the interview:
Me: First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Anne: Well, I am the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a rescuer of kittens, a devoted fan of my handsome husband, Rohan, a wannabe-connoisseur of the opera, and a wearer of fuzzy socks.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was nine years old.
Who/what is your inspiration?
Great books are my inspiration! I was an English Lit. student at University, and I don’t think I would be the writer I am today if I hadn’t spend years studying the great masters, learning their tricks, discovering their passions, absorbing their themes.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. Most of the time, somewhere between six and eight months. But I wrote Veiled Rose in two months! Which was madness, but I had a deadline.
Do you outline or do you write by the seat of your pants?
My stories are far too complex to succeed with seat-of-the-pants writing. I actually tried that with Dragonwitch, and utterly failed. I need a good solid outline of what is going to happen. I don’t always know how it will happen—that’s where the spontaneous creativity comes in. But I need to know what will happen to all the characters, how they serve the plot, how their goals and desires work together or at odds.
Do you have a favorite of the novels you have written?
My favorite is always the one I’ve just finished. So currently that means my Super-Secret project which I will be announcing in another month or so!
How did you create the world of the Tales of Goldstone Wood?
I started out just penning random ideas in a notebook . . . little fairy tale notions that came to me while reading great works by older authors. Dragonwitch was one such fairytale, starting out as a few little notes, later expanding into a more complex fairy tale, and then resulting in the novel I now present to you. As I set to writing each of the fairy tales, I would see them referencing and depending on each other. Thus a world was born. When I started writing novels, it was much the same: I’d write one novel, but it would be subtly tied to four or five other seemingly independent works, not to mention already-written fairy tales.
Do you have a theme in mind when you write each book?
I never do. I just have a story. But I spend a lot of time in prayer as I write each book, and I let God provide the theme as I go. I write as an act of worship, and in worship, each theme develops. But I can take no credit for any of them.
What made you decide to pursue publishing?
After completing the third draft of Heartless, it seemed a shame to simply sit on the story! My mother is a professional novelist, and I am friends with a number of her novelist contacts. They all encouraged me and offered advice along the way.
What books have influenced you in your writing?
Oh, so many! C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, of course. George MacDonald’s fairy tales, the short ones such as The Light Princess or Photogen and Nycteris more than the longer novels, though I did draw from some themes in Phantastes when I wrote Starflower. A number of the Victorian and Romantic-era poets have been major influences, particularly Robert Browning, who is my favorite. And, of course, you can hardly dabble in the Faerie world without drawing from Shakespeare!
What is the hardest part for you in writing a book?
Always the beginning. I have the hardest time figuring out where and how things ought to start! Usually once I get the first 40,000 words properly in place, the rest of the novel will fall together beautifully. But if those first 40,000 words aren’t quite right, the novel won’t work, and major revisions will have to be made. With Dragonwitch, I had so much trouble finding the right beginning, I finally picked up in the middle and wrote to the end, then went back and added the opening chapters! But I don’t prefer working that way.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Good writers are good readers. So READ A LOT. Don’t just read books that are easy for you. Pick up the classics and study what it was that set them apart from other, forgotten books of their day. Figure out which genre is your favorite, the genre you want to write in, and read a ton in that genre.
What are you currently working on in your writing? Can you share a little bit about that?
I am currently working on Book 7 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, which takes place probably a hundred years or so (I forget the timeline at the moment) after the events of Dragonwitch. For the moment, the book is going under the working title Golden Daughter, and I think it’s going to stick that way.
This novel will be particularly interesting to series readers because it deals, finally, with the events of the historical Night of Moonblood (referenced in the novel Moonblood). And it won’t surprise my faithful fans to learn that there was, of course, much more going on than previous hints would indicate! It’s the most epic and exciting story I’ve tackled yet with quite a charismatic cast of characters . . . including one handsome orange cat.
Do you read reviews of your books?
Officially, no. That is, I really try not to because they can so easily upset me. While I have a wonderful base of devoted fans, there are always going to be those who hate my work . . . and hate is very hard to handle! So I try to avoid reviews as much as possible, though it is very tempting to see what people are saying about each newest project.
Is there meaning behind the names of your characters? How about the titles of your novels?
The characters all receive names that suit their country of origin. I base most of the names on “our world” names, which to me lends a sense of authenticity. In Dragonwitch, for instance, all the North Country people have names that are either Latin or inspired by Latin names.
The names I have the most trouble with are all those dragon-blasted Southlanders! I thought it was such a great idea, in Heartless to name my cowardly prince “Lionheart,” and I then tried to make everyone else’s name match his. And now I’m stuck trying to come up with believable sounding names along those lines!
The titles have, so far, come pretty easily. Heartless was the most difficult, and I was never perfectly satisfied with it (it works, but is it truly perfect?). All of the others just seemed to come along with their books, so I didn’t even have to think about it.
What is your favorite book?
While I reserve the right to change my mind at any given moment . . . my favorite book right now would be Sir Terry Pratchett’s Nation. I adore that book more every time I read it. I don’t even agree with Pratchett’s basic philosophy presented in the book, but he writes it so beautifully! I want to write like he does, with humor and heartbreak and thoughtfulness.
What are some hobbies of yours?
I draw and paint—I play the piano and sing a little—I rescue kittens—I bake pastries—I’m trying to take up running, but not super consistently yet.
What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?
Coffee or Tea?
Absolutely tea. Especially the black Ceylon tea to which my husband introduced me. The perfect brew for a writing session!
And now…the giveaway! To enter, click here and follow the instructions a Rafflecopter giveaway to win the amazing grand prize of the first five books in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series.
I’m also running an exclusive giveaway of Dragonwitch on my blog here: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Also, check out the other blogs participating in the tour to see all the great things they’ve got going!
July 14 – Day 1
July 15 – Day 2
July 16 – Day 3
Blog Tour Finale and Prize Awarded back at the Tales of Goldstone Wood!