- As a fantasy author how do you see the genre evolving?
Firstly, fangs for inviting me into the God Realm of Odealeous, AJ! Well, hopefully the fantasy genre will mutate into a many-headed Hydra (Billie, you promised to take this interview seriously! Very well, if I must…) I personally don’t treat fantasy as a single genre and would be extremely disappointed if a book didn’t include another aspect. At the risk of confusing readers, my tales contain action and adventure, horror, mythology and romance too, even a little sci-fi when needed, probably because I’ve dabbled in writing and reading them all. A good tale must contain more than just one genre, otherwise it isn’t realistic. And because I don’t believe fantasy is so clear-cut, it doesn’t need to evolve. It’s impossible to define in the first place. Despite an odd fad and, prices and word-counts changing, it’s all incredibly unique. What the genre needs is more diverse characters, an injection of different species, mental health and disability issues, as well as innovative, inspiring ways of delivering the books. If I really knew the answer to the question, I’d be sorted for life.
- Do you think that authors such as Tolkien and Rowling took a religious beating and opened the doors for fantasy authors such as you?
Despite being unmatched in their sales and popularity, they were inspired by so many others and so are hardly trailblazers. Fantasy’s been around for hundreds of years and they’re far too current! I’ll grant that Tolkien’s command of languages puts him far beyond anyone else and probably always will. However, there’s always room for fresh, diverse topics, from new authors, challenging how readers feel and think. There are always going to be controversial books to come, just as there are controversial people, inspired by an ever-changing world.
- Do you go Larping?
No, but I wish that I did! Perhaps I’ll dress up as one of my characters some day soon. I need an outfit and a wig, which change colour with emotion…
- Psychologically speaking, why do you think people read fantasy?
Bridging all ages, genders, pockets and backgrounds, fantasy’s a release from mundane reality and an indulgence. It’s the best value for money, for once you’re absorbed by a story, you can be anything, go anywhere and do anything. You can meet and root for heroes, fall in love with them, fall in love with villains if you want! I certainly do. You can battle the injustices of the world, of your world, for just a moment or wipe the slate clean entirely, merely by investing temporarily in someone else’s view on life. You also learn about other people, whether you agree with them or not, which opens up all new worlds. Fantasy also inspire a reader to become more than they are, a writer, to create their own experiences and inspire another set of readers/writers.
- Your book Destiny of Dragons sounds cool. What would you say inspired you to write it? And do you have tools you keep with you to write your book?
Everyone has a different motive, usually a positive one. I’ve wrote fantasy for years, but The Destiny of Dragons series was invoked into being by a particularly stressful job. I believe in integrating modern themes into my stories, otherwise the characters aren’t realistic, and Kai Canarbis is as stressed as they come. His trials were my way of dealing of what I endured at the time. At similar stressful times I find myself asking what would Kai do? There’s so much of myself invested in him.
As for tools, I really need a many-headed Hydra to take notes. I write whenever and wherever, and only use rubbish pens because I exhaust so many. I’ve been known to write on my arm if need be and to integrate the names of people I meet throughout the day into my books. The strongest weapon in my arsenal is my 14 year old laptop, which can’t connect to the internet, which means I’m not distracted.
- Do you think fantasy authors have a psychic ability to see into other worlds?
I already knew you’d ask that. They certainly have an ability to create and manipulate worlds, as well as destroy them if they so choose, although you can’t prove anything! The Empire of Ay asked for it though…
- George RR Martin says that the worlds of fantasy are written in the language of dreams. How would you say you write fantasy? What is the first step you take in writing it?
There’s no planning in what I create, just a pure love of place, plot and character development. What do people who don’t write do? Who wouldn’t want to create their own realms to control? To damn! I love penning series and just can’t stop, once I forge a world and populate it with fascinating characters. It takes a lot of work, after all, to construct entire societies. Minor characters often inspire the next story, as I want to learn more about them. I also have a love of tragedy and can end a story on a bad note. Then I feel terrible and have to write a sequel, in order to end the tale more favourably. And then I consider it weak and restore a tragic ending on the next installment This pattern once led to a thirty book series. Fortunately The Destiny of Dragons is only nine books long.
- Do you think that a lot of fantasy, whether if its books or movies and shows, is becoming more and more violent and sexual?
If you watch anime, what they show on the Game of Thrones is nothing! But what’s portrayed and has become popular is definitely a reflection of changing times. There’s nothing wrong with being exposed to greater extremes though, for without an open society, we would be blissfully ignorant to atrocities all across the world and would therefore be powerless to act upon them.
- Do you think sci-fi is more popular than fantasy or are they equal?
It’s a fact sci-fi sells more than its cousin fantasy. I’ve dabbled in sci-fi and it’s difficult to write, because unlike fantasy, which borrows from everything that’s ever come before, you have to imagine completely new futures, completely fresh technology, elements that don’t even exist. That’s a true test of the imagination and I obviously fail, but then, as history is my biggest inspiration, I can’t help but dwell in the past. Despite their differences, I know readers who enjoy both genres and there is no distinction for them. There is no popularity contest; the genres are just different and enjoyable in their respective ways. Long live books in all genres! But if sci-fi wants a fight, I’m ready for him.
10. I have been exploring the topic of sex thanks to Game of Thrones. What is your outlook on sex in fantasy stories?
I don’t include it myself, as it was never in the books that inspired me, but each to their own; I’d never look down on someone for writing or reading about it. Why, it’s attracted new armies of readers in all genres and as long as people are reading, that’s never a bad thing. It’s an extremely human aspect to portray too, like profanity or pooping. I’d just rather scoop a prisoner’s eye out with a spoon.
11. Do you put yourself in your books? If so, then how?
Of course! But not intentionally. I can’t help but flesh out a character with aspects of my personality, experiences, memories, quirks, views and more. How else do you give birth to a believable character? However, once that character is living and breathing upon the page, they can also rebel. Writing is a very organic process, especially if you deal with that character a lot. It’s interesting to have personalities in complete contrast to your own, in order to play against those characters that are too similar. What a boring world it would be if everyone was the same. To explore my own world views is yet another motive to write.
12. Who is your favourite author so far?
Are you mad? I can’t pick just one! As a child I was obsessed with Alexander Dumas’ Three Musketeers, Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur and The Volsunga Saga. Later, I clung onto anything by Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay and Mervyn Peake. I’m a big fan of manga too, Masashi Kishimoto in particular. Humorous, adventurous and still current, Dumas is definitely my favourite. The Volsunga Saga has had the biggest impact on my writing though, which isn’t surprising, since it inspired the almighty Tolkien too. Unfortunately, no one knows who penned the legendary saga. It was likely a collection of people and therefore I don’t feel so intimidated to live up to one writer.
13. What is your favorite movie and why?
I love Red Cliff’s grand epic spectacular. It’s a cool, beautiful fantasy, based upon real-life events, including incredible martial arts, unpredictable strategy and wonderful war scenes. It boasts a diverse range of larger than life characters, fantastical legends in history, which all have their faults and I’ve never been a fan of pure good vs pure evil. I’m the kind of writer who always feels sorry for all those poor, jobless orcs at the end of Lord of The Rings. Red Cliff also concerns the fight for the future of an empire and that’s what I enjoy writing about.
14. If you could be any fictional character in any movie, who would it be and why?
Until my books are made into films and I cast myself as cerebral killer and Pure-Blood Sorceress, Kara-Janx Hasketh, I’ll have to settle upon being a character in another film that’s not yet released. I’d wrestle Michael Fassbender for the new Assassins Creed role, as the assassins (and Templars) are as cool as they come and it would involve some dual acting too! Writing is really just acting upon the page and who wouldn’t want to play two supposedly identical characters differently? I don’t believe it’s going to be one of the assassins from the games in the new film though, but I don’t mind; I’d play her exactly as I want! I’ll even write her!
15. What would you tell people out there who want to write fantasy?
Write, write and write some more. Write more than you read in order to explore your own dreams. Despite its supposedly unlimited scope, elements of the genre have been copied and clichéd to death – we’re probably all guilty of it – so, read anything and everything outside the genre too. Don’t dismiss the classics, children’s books or graphic novels either, anything containing the written word. Reap inspiration from movies, music and tv, dance, games, history and current events. Travel a lot and get to know people. You never know what might inspire your first sentence.
Check out Billie- Jo Williams books
Twitter: @acorok (author) and @destinyofdragon (book)