TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Courtney: When I’m struggling with a thorny plot problem, or a scene feels flat and I’m not sure how to make it zing on the page, I ditch my computer and go climb a mountain. Preferably by some route difficult enough to make my heart pound and my hands sweat. By the time I come back down again, I almost always have a solution. I’m convinced that the combination of adrenaline and improved circulation does wonders for brainpower. But it’s not just the physical activity that helps me – exercising indoors doesn’t work nearly so well. There’s something about the expansive vistas you get from a mountain peak that throws the gates of inspiration wide open. I don’t know what I’d do as a writer if I lived in a flat state!
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Courtney: My all-time favorite writer is Dorothy Dunnett. Her two major series (the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo) are shelved in historical fiction, but I’d argue that they qualify equally well as historical fantasy, thanks to the suggestion of clairvoyant mental powers in certain characters. No matter how many times I read her novels, I remain in awe of her consummate skill with plot and characterization. Other favorites include C.J. Cherryh, Emma Bull, Patricia McKillip, Carol Berg, Martha Wells, Joan Vinge, and Elizabeth Bear. Martha Wells and Carol Berg in particular showed me that a story can have thrilling adventure right along with a deep exploration of character.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Courtney: I’m somewhere in between. I don’t outline, but when I start a story I always know the beginning, the end, and a few major signposts along the way. That way I’ve got a firm destination, but the freedom to take unexpected twists and turns as I go there.
TQ: Describe The Whitefire Crossing in 140 characters or less.
Courtney: A mountain climber and an apprentice mage get caught up in a war of intrigue between rival mages that will decide the fate of a city.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Whitefire Crossing?
Courtney: I love to read, and I read fast. After years of wishing my favorite authors could put out novels faster, I finally decided to quit whining about it and instead try writing more of the kind of books I wanted to read, full of magic and intrigue and adventure. As a climber, I thought it might be fun to write a fantasy novel involving mountaineering, and set it in a landscape reminiscent of one of my favorite places to climb: the Owens Valley and eastern Sierra Nevada, in California. If you’ve never been to the Owens Valley, the scenery is spectacular; it’s one of the deepest valleys in the world, with snowcapped 14,000 foot peaks rising straight up from arid desert full of sagebrush and sand dunes. I put pictures of the eastern Sierra beside my computer, and any time I felt my motivation flagging, all I had to do was look at those and get inspired all over again.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Whitefire Crossing?
Courtney: I didn’t have to do much, since most of the mountaineering bits came from my own knowledge and experience, and the magic came straight from my imagination. I did do some further research on the history of mountaineering, since I based my climbers in the novel on the local guides and crystal hunters that traveled the Alps in the 1700s. When I first moved to Colorado back in 1995, I took a mountaineering class from the Colorado Mountain Club in which we were taught not only modern techniques, but learned about a lot of the old-school climbing methods that were prevalent before our age of synthetic ropes and stealth-rubber soles. (Climbing was a far more risky endeavor in the 17th and 18th centuries!) When I set out to write The Whitefire Crossing, I went back and read a few more historical accounts and old journals, just to be sure my climbers would be using equipment appropriate to the technology level of my world.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Courtney: With my two protagonists Dev and Kiran, it seemed like one character was always easier than the other to write, but which one was easiest changed with every chapter! Because I wrote Dev’s scenes in 1st person and Kiran’s scenes in 3rd, I had different challenges with each character. For Dev (the climber), I had to be careful not to get bogged down too much in his head, and to keep his narration properly sardonic without being too flippant in times of stress. For Kiran (the mage), I had to make sure I got deep enough into his POV that he didn’t feel like a cipher compared to Dev, while carefully gauging how much information about his past I was giving the reader.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the novel?
Courtney: There’s a scene where someone casts a spell to stop an avalanche that I just love, both because of the action and because it’s a pivotal moment for that character. I’m also quite fond of a scene late in the book in which Dev (and the reader) gets to see one of the novel’s antagonists in person for the first time.
TQ: What's next?
Courtney: I’m hard at work on The Whitefire Crossing’s sequel, The Tainted City, which is scheduled to release in the fall of 2012. If these first two novels sell well, there may be a third book in the series – otherwise, I’ve got a few ideas for new stories floating around.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Courtney: Thanks so much for having me, Sally!
About The Whitefire Crossing
The Whitefire Crossing
The Shattered Sigil 1
(Night Shade Books, August 9, 2011)
But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution--and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.
Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other--or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.
Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository
Courtney's guest blog about the cover art of The Whitefire Crossing may be found by clicking here.
The Night Bazaar (group blog) : http://night-bazaar.com
What: One commenter will win a signed copy of The Whitefire Crossing from Courtney!
How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
What would be your adventure? (Mountaineering?
A trip through the rain forest? A safari? Something else?)
Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.
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3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.
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Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Thursday, August 18, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.
*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*