Today we have the brilliant author Resa Nelson on the blog for her blog tour of Book 3 in the Dragonslayer series. Fantasy is something we both love, so this fits perfectly on the blog. So, without further delay, let's get the interview started!
Describe your series? What genre would you classify it into?
I guess it’s epic fantasy, but I also blend genres. I strive to write page turners, because I don’t want my readers to get bored. There’s usually some type of mystery going on, and sometimes it leans toward the mystery/thriller genre. My books can get pretty dark, so I also strive to throw in as much humor as possible to give my books some balance.
How did you come up with the idea for the series?
Many years ago I was propositioned by a co-worker (a married man with two young children). Like a lot of writers, I write to work through my problems. So I wrote a short story about a female blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers. When a new dragonslayer propositions her, she doesn’t know what to do because if she doesn’t keep his weapons in good working order then his inability to fight dragons can place all her friends and neighbours at risk. When the story was published there was a huge reader response, which made me think about turning it into a novel. It took me 8 years to figure out how to do that. And once I started writing the novel, I realized the story and the world I had created were much bigger than I’d first imagined. So by the time I finished writing Book 1, I pretty much had the whole series in my head.
When and why did you begin writing?
Before I knew how to write, I was always making up stories to entertain myself. But when I was in 2nd grade I had a group assignment to rewrite a classic children’s story and create large illustrations to go along with it. I had the most fun working on that project with two of my favorite classmates. And when we gave our presentation to the rest of the class, we were a big hit. (At least, that’s the way I remember it!) So I was hooked. That’s when I knew I wanted to write books.
How has your journey from writing to getting published been?
Epic! I knew it would take me a long time to learn how to write a good novel, so I started out with short stories. I was lucky enough to be accepted to the Clarion SF Workshop, which changed my life in lots of different ways. I’d sold a few stories to small press magazines before Clarion, but afterwards I broke into professional publications. About 15 years ago, the first novel I wrote was accepted by one of the top publishing houses in the world – but 6 months later they decided it was too risky to buy first novels and withdrew their offer. That experience almost broke me in half. But I kept writing and working at my craft. Fortunately, when I wrote my first Dragonslayer novel I did some research about the current state of the publishing industry and decided to submit to smaller publishing houses. I was so lucky to find my publisher, Mundania Press! They’re amazing!
Who is your favourite character? Is there a character in the series you think the readers will hate?
I have to say my favorite character is Astrid, the main character, mostly because I identify with her so much. And I know there are characters that readers hate because I’ve already heard from them! That’s fine, because they’re villainous characters. Some of the villains in my Dragonslayer series are men who genuinely believe that women cause all the problems in the world and therefore must be controlled. But there are also female characters who are villains. I’d much rather have readers hate characters than be bored with them!
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I want my Dragonslayer world to feel as real as possible, so the first challenge was to overcome my fear of learning about history, which is what I consider to be my weakest area of knowledge. That involved reading a lot of books and taking lots of notes. It was also a challenge to figure out how to learn about blacksmithing and medieval weapons beyond just reading about them, but I found courses that I took in blacksmithing and in learning historically accurate ways to use weapons from the Middle Ages. That was a blast! From a literary point of view, I focus very heavily on theme, so it’s mostly a matter of constantly working at my craft to become a better writer. I’m a big fan of sociology and psychology, so I really enjoy creating and developing characters. The challenge is always figuring out what they want and what they need and what obstacles to throw at them. For logistics, it was a matter of forging ahead and writing the book while I was taking my blacksmithing and weapons courses and having the faith that I could go back and incorporate everything I was learning in chapters I’d already written.
Who designed the covers of the books?
Her name is Ana Winson, and she’s one of the artists used by my publisher. Isn’t her work fabulous?
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?
I don’t think so. I think through my books very carefully before I write them. Right now there are about 20 unwritten books in my head, including 4 series. One of those series has been in my head for most of my life – it’s going to require a huge amount of research, and I’m just not ready to write it yet. But I pretty much know my books inside and out before I commit anything to paper.
What are your current projects? When is the next book in the series coming out? Could you describe what happens in the next book in the series?
The next (and last) book in the Dragonslayer series is coming out in November! It wraps up the series and answers a lot of questions. That’s about all I can say without going into spoiler territory. And remember the book I mentioned a moment ago – the one I wrote that was accepted and then rejected by a major publishing house? I’d given up on it years ago, but I’ve figured out how to rewrite it from scratch. Right now I’m in outline mode, and I plan to start writing it in September. I’m so excited about it!
What book are you reading now? Which are your all-time favourite authors / books?
I’m reading two books: “See You ‘Round the Square,” a mainstream novel by Berry & Croft and “In the Garden of Beasts” by Eric Larson. My favourite authors are Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane – I love mysteries and thrillers. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Poe, Dickens, Ray Bradbury, and Agatha Christie.
Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
1. I hate shoes. I’m barefoot most of the time.
2. When I was a kid, one of my responsibilities was to catch lizards that had wandered into the house and then set them free. I love lizards.
3. I’m committed to physical fitness because I’ve studied human biology and anatomy, and I know what’s going to happen if I don’t take care of my body. I exercise every day, switching between step aerobics, dance aerobics, and yoga. I also walk at least 2 miles every day, which I count as writing time because I think through what I’m working on at the moment.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?
Thank you so much to everyone who has read one or more of my books! I know there are a bazillion books out there and so many choices. It means a lot to me when someone takes a chance on my work. I want to make it easy for readers to sample my work, and that’s why I have a “mini” ebook of two Dragonslayer short stories that anyone can download from my website (at http://www.resanelson.com/files). It’s a way for people to try my work and see for themselves if they like it or not.
Can you tell us more about the world in your books?
I think it’s a world that’s parallel to ours, and I modelled it on the beginning of the Viking era. Some people are shapeshifters, but shapeshifting works based on how you perceive yourself and other people. Ghosts are real and play a very important role throughout the series. And there are two different types of dragons: one type is an overgrown lizard that’s extremely dangerous, and the other type can shapeshift between the form of a dragon and mortal form.
How do you come up with names for the characters and places in your books?
For character names, I try to either find a name or make up one that reflects whatever country or culture each character comes from. I try to do the same kind of thing with place names. For example, I see one country as somewhat similar to a blend of Spain and Italy. I’m a big fan of the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, so I named a town after one of his works.
Which do you think is more important, world building or character building?
I see them as being the same thing, because characters are so much a part of the world. For example, in one country in my Dragonslayer world, when a woman is challenged as having done something wrong, she must defend herself in an organized fight but steps are taken to give her equal footing against her opponent. But if that same woman is challenged in any other country, she can ask a man to fight on her behalf. These rules (which are based on what happened in our world during the Middle Ages) are a part of my world building, but the way each character responds to these rules is a part of character building.
How easy is it for you to write non-human characters, with each having different ‘quirks’?
I write non-human characters in the same way I write human characters. I see them as having distinct personalities and wants and needs. There just happens to be something about them that doesn’t qualify them as “human.”
ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
Cats or dogs?
Coffee or tea?
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Keys, sunglasses, clothing, and (ugh!) shoes.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
At home in the space I’ve created for writing. At the moment that’s my dining room table.
If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you any why?
Frankly, I can’t think of anyone famous I’d like to be stranded with. I’d choose someone who knows how to grow food, someone who knows how to filter water, and someone who knows how to build a ship! I’m all about being practical.
List 3 of your all-time favourite movies?
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Blue, White, and Red (the trilogy)
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
Brave. What a wonderful and unique story!
About author Resa Nelson
Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was published last December, Book 3 was published in May, and the final book in the series is scheduled for publication in November.Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."Resa lives in Massachusetts.
You can find Resa here:
The Dragonslayer’s Sword (Book 1)
For Astrid, a blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers, the emergence of a strange gemstone from her body sets in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy her life. Her happiness is shattered when her lover--the dragonslayer--disappears without a trace, and the life that she knows and loves implodes without warning.Astrid lives in a world of shapeshifters whose thoughts have the power to change not only themselves but others. Everything Astrid knows to be true is called into question when she learns the truth about her past and the mysterious family from which she was separated as a child.Reality turns inside out as Astrid gradually learns the truth about the people she loves as well as those she disdains. With the fate of dragons, ghosts, and slaves in foreign lands resting on her shoulders, Astrid faces the challenge of deciding who she is and how she will stand up inside her own skin. Will she withdraw and hide from the world that has disappointed her so much...or will she rise to lead others to freedom and peace?
The Iron Maiden (Book 2)
Astrid is reluctant to travel the winter route beyond the Northlands, even though it’s her duty. She’d rather stay home in her village, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Ignoring the bonds of tradition, she decides to spend the cold winter months in the warmth of her blacksmithing shop. Why should she leave the comfort of her cottage to serve and protect foreigners who might raid and harm her native Northlands?Everything changes when a traveling merchant steals Starlight, the first dragonslayer’s sword Astrid forged and her last link to her sweetheart DiStephan. Having no time to alert her friends, Astrid races in pursuit of the merchant, determined to reclaim Starlight as her own and return home in time for dinner. Instead, her quest leads her to new lands, unexpected friendships with foreigners, and a harrowing encounter with the damage done by the followers of a new god that considers women as nothing more than servants to men. All the while, she must be ready to face any dragon traveling the winter route.In Book 2 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid must learn that deciding who she is isn’t a decision she can make just once. It’s a decision she must make every day.
The Stone of Darkness (Book 3)In Book 3 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid accepts her duty and follows the winter route--until she's bitten by a dragon. Everyone knows dragon bites are poisonous and deadly, so she reluctantly accepts her impending death. In a twist of fate, she survives. Desperate for an explanation, Astrid believes she has somehow been protected by the black stone she keeps with her at all times, a stone that emerged from the sole of her foot a year ago.Determined to find out what the stone is and what kind of powers it possesses, Astrid begins a journey that leads her to alchemists and an army of men under the rule of the powerful warrior, Mandulane, the acting lord of the Krystr army. Mandulane's mission is to spread the word of the new god Krystr, which preaches the evil intent of women and the danger they pose to all men, who are entitled to dominate the world. Rumors about this new god and army have spread, but Astrid is the first Northlander to encounter them.Soon, she stumbles upon a secret of a far-reaching and mind-numbing plot that will impact the entire world. Astrid must find a way to spread the news of this threat and protect her people and everyone else at risk. She's convinced the answer lies inside the Stone of Darkness, and she must find a way to understand the stone and the powers she's convinced it must hold before it's too late.