Welcome M.C.! Thanks for taking some time to chat about writing. First, a few quick-fire questions: Cafes or Pubs? Flying or sailing? And if you could have any magical creature as a pet, what would it be?
Hello, Joshua! It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me. Ooh, these are toughies. I’d have to say pubs over cafes since I could live off pub food. I prefer flying as long as I have a window seat, and if I could have any magical creature as a pet, I’d probably want a phoenix. I love birds, and I like the idea of having one that would continue to be reborn from its flames as it got older.
"I love birds, and I like the idea of having one that would continue to be reborn
As you shared in your writing blog, you made the shift from working another job and writing part time to writing full time early in 2019. How has that shift affected your experience of being a writer and how do you manage your writing schedule without burning out?
I’m very glad I made the switch to being a full-time writer. It was pretty scary to leave my job at first, but I knew it was the right move for me. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned to pace myself, ask questions, and make deadlines. I make a deadline for pretty much everything in my life and give myself downtime at the end of the day, so I don’t burn out. I also try to take weekends off from social media, so I feel refreshed for the new week.
The Echo, the prequel to The Adventures of Dauntless Grimm was just re-launched on June 30th - Congratulations! Talk us through the process of launching this prequel and how it sets the stage for the series that follows. Any tips for fantasy authors who are just starting their world-building journey?
Thank you so much! I’m very happy about the relaunch of The Echo. I made a few tweaks to the story, created a map, and had an incredible artist, Anna from Eerilyfair Design, create a beautiful new cover for it. The prequel is pretty tame compared to the rest of the series. I really wanted people to be able to dip their toe in first before getting to know the darker sides of the world my main characters live in. I figured what better way than to start at the beginning then when they’re in school and haven’t quite seen the world for all that is it yet.
The biggest tip I’d give any writer is to write down every detail about the world for yourself. Even if you never use it, it’s good to know your world inside and out. Also, I know it feels like your novel will never be completely finished. There are always new things to explore and tweaks to be made. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and press that publish button.
"The biggest tip I’d give any writer is to write down every detail about the world for yourself. Even if you never use it, it’s good to know your world inside and out."
The starting point for Quesys, your protagonist, was a character you developed during a table-top roleplaying game (TTRPG) which intrigues me as I have never built a character this way. What advantages do you see from a writing perspective in ‘growing’ your understanding of a character by playing them in an RPG before putting them on the page?
Role-playing games allow you to really get to know your character. How they walk, talk, think and act in different scenarios. It’s what really inspired me to write about my main character, Quesys. When writing, I also get to mix things up and change things I later decided didn’t suit her character. RPG games, video games, reading and writing, allows us to immerse ourselves in a fantasy world of our or someone else’s making and I’m very happy I got to experience that with Quesys on two fronts. If I ever write a new series, I’d probably start them out as an RPG character again and see where they take me.
"RPG games, video games, reading and writing, allows us to immerse ourselves in a fantasy world of our or someone else’s making..."
One of my favorite writing topics is magical creatures. In the Syndellian Queendom there are some familiar races such as elves, goblins, humans, dwarves, and gnomes, but also some more unique ones such as gebens and half-zorns! Tell us about the creature races of your novel and how you made their distinct societies work together (or not!) within the realm of Westshore.
Unfortunately, in the divided elven city of Siannodel, many of the races are at odds with one another. Years of war, prejudice, and ignorance, especially between the goblins and elves, have made living there difficult for many. Luckily, not all who live in the Syndellian Queendom feel that way.
There are many more races in the Dauntless adventures which will be brought up and in more detail in the later books, but the ones mentioned in the prelude are the first created by the gods of Life and Death. Mostly humans and elves live in Siannodel, but many other races have made their home in different parts of Westshore. For example, Gebens and gnomes are seen by most as more neutral-tempered, whereas half-zorns or goblins are perceived by many to be unintelligent and brash. All of which isn’t true, of course. As my books continue, many of my characters will get to see beyond the stereotypes society has made for them, and some will become better people for it.
We share two particularly unique features as writers: we are both Canadians writing fantasy! How do you feel that living in Canada affects your writing and what do you think Canadian writers of fantasy have to offer the world at large? Do you see any advantages or disadvantages to being a fantasy writer in Canada?
I like reading fantasy novels from authors all over the world. I especially love when they include the lore and culture of their country into their writing. I think the same goes for Canadian writers. We live in a mosaic society, so I try to bring a little bit of lore from many cultures into my books. I’m a big fan of planting “Easter eggs” in my stories. If you look closely, you may catch them. I’d say the only real disadvantage of being a Canadian writer for me is using the letter “u” in my writing. Most of my programs are set up to spell check in American, so whenever I write “neighbour” or “colour,” it yells at me to get rid of all my “u ’s”. It’s easily fixed though so it’s not a real bother.
"I like reading fantasy novels from authors all over the world. I especially love when they include the lore and culture of their country into their writing."
Can you give us any hints or sneak peeks of what is next in The Adventures of Dauntless Grimm?
Ooh, you want spoilers, eh? Hmm alright. Well, in the next book, we get to meet some new players in the game. Future readers can guess whether they’re good or bad or even neutral. We’ll get to see Quesys aboard the Rusty Rod, see her fight a new foe, watch as she asks about the Spice Wars that nobody deigns to talk about, and of course, complain about not having a decent pair of pants with pockets. We get to see how Sunny and Darcassian get along (or don’t). Also, we learn a bit more about the plane of existence our MCs live in. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
"We’ll get to see Quesys aboard the Rusty Rod, see her fight a new foe, watch as she asks about the Spice Wars that nobody deigns to talk about, and of course, complain about not having a decent pair of pants with pockets."
Last, but not least, where can readers find your work and keep up to date on your latest publications?
You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and on my website where you can sign up for my mailing list and get sneak peeks of upcoming projects. I’m currently working on fixing/setting up my Tumblr and Instagram accounts. You can also find my first book, The Echo: A Prelude to the Adventures of Dauntless Grimm, on Amazon.
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Joshua Gillingham is an author, editor, and game designer from Vancouver Island, Canada.