As a writer, I often read as a writer (analysing, nitpicking, oohing-and-ahing and brilliant technique). Devin Madson’s Blood of Whisperers made me forget all that and just read for the sheer thrill of it. See my Goodreads review for more if you’re interested.
I caught up with Devin recently and assailed her with my usual five questions and a statement…
PETE: Blood of Whisperers is a stunning novel. How on earth does an author come up with something so true to the genre and yet so unique in a debut novel?
DEVIN: Thank you very much! The immediate answer is ‘um….’ There was never an intention to write something unique, no decision that I would be different. I’ve always just written the stories that came to me naturally – the characters that spoke to me and wouldn’t leave me alone until I had written down their tale. I think perhaps the unique way I learned to write and the fact that I read extensively outside the fantasy genre through my formative years might have something to do with it.
PETE: What was your “breakthrough” moment as a writer?
DEVIN: It wasn’t so much a moment for me, as a series of gradual realisations over a few weeks. I had been writing seriously for about seven years, ever since leaving high school, but I had never been to a class, never read anything that taught writing, never even met another author – I had learned to write in a vacuum, as it were, just me and my words. And there were LOTS of words. By the end of the seven years my writing was good, my ideas were good, but I had no concept of structure. Enter Sydney Smith – story whisperer extraordinaire. I drank in everything she ever had to say, but it wasn’t until I sat down to apply her teachings to my own work that everything started to piece together in my head, and from there I was able to make my own discoveries about story structure. That was the moment I was finally ready for people to read my work – after nine years of full time writing!
PETE: Which writer(s) have had the most profound effect on you and why?
DEVIN: What hard questions you ask! I don’t have a favourite author, especially not a fantasy author. I’m still looking for one. But in terms of authors that have affected me… two come to mind. Georgette Heyer and David Eddings. Georgette Heyer wrote mostly regency romances, very clever stories with very real characters, which is why I read them again and again when usually it isn’t my genre. I think I’ve learned a lot from her about characters. And David Eddings was the first fantasy author I read. I don’t think I write like him at all, but it was David Eddings who brought me to my love of fantasy in my late teens and I’ve been writing fantasy ever since.
PETE: What do you think of the trend toward self-publishing?
DEVIN: Like everything I think there are two sides of the coin on this subject. The good is that there are no gatekeepers and the bad is that there are no gatekeepers. It’s hard to argue that in many ways the current traditional publishing model is old fashioned and no longer a perfect fit for a society where immediacy is key. That being said, the fact that self-publishing allows anything and everything to go on the market for reader consumption has led to self-publishers having a stigma it’s hard to avoid. It isn’t a problem with the market being swamped with terrible books, because I trust that readers are smart enough to look at the book, read the blurb, glance inside and see if the story is for them, but the stigma means there is a whole section of the reading community who will never touch a self-published book no matter how good it might be.
All in all I think it’s an interesting time in publishing (everyone says that, I know, but it’s true!). The self-publishing movement is growing, and where it is done with proper professionalism I think that’s a great idea. It encourages competition, and in that situation the cream should rise. After all the majority of people still rely on word of mouth to choose which books to read.
PETE: That stigma is curious given that even Dickens self-published (arguably) his most popular book ever. So what’s next for you beyond the Vengeance trilogy?
DEVIN: I have a problem called ‘always wanting to write six things at once’. I don’t because I like to focus on something once I get started, but trying to decide which will be the next is quite hard. In the world of The Vengeance Trilogy, I plan to continue writing the story of the world in first a stand alone story that I will post for free on my website, followed by another trilogy to be released 2015. I also have a number of short stories in the works, some branching off from characters of The Vengeance Trilogy. One is the story of how Hope became a Vice, some years before the beginning of The Blood of Whisperers.
PETE: What’s your response to this statement? Every character (no matter how depraved/noble/bellicose/witty/thoughtful/etc) reveals something of the author themselves.
DEVIN: I hate to think what my characters say about me! I think in general I would agree to that statement, because all we really use to write our characters and our stories is ourselves, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. But in some situations, with some authors, I sometimes feel there is more of what they WANT the reader to think of them as a person, rather than what they really are. When you’re not bleeding words onto a page and giving yourself to the story, you’re much more likely to get recycled cardboard cut-out characters, and those don’t say very much about their authors, at least not to me.
You can visit www.devinmadson.com for more about the author and her works including links to buying them.
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