You may read Roberta's Guest Blog - The Chicken-Egg Paradox: What Came First – the Story or the Character? - and read an excerpt of The Well of Tears here.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Roberta: I don’t know how interesting this is, but it is quirky. When I write, I cannot get comfortably settled unless I am seated with my back to a north facing wall. I like to think this is because the magnetic pull of the North Pole is somehow tied to my creative flow. In all reality, however, I’m probably just a little weird.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Roberta: That’s always a tough question to answer – there are so many talented writers. To name just a few, I admire authors like Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, and Jacqueline Carey for their creative genius and mastery of craft. And I always look forward to new works by Robin Hobb, Tanith Lee, and Terry Brooks. But the authors who have most influenced me as a writer are classical fantasy legends like JRR Tolkein, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Tarr, and Mary Stewart.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Roberta: Hm. Well, I’d have to say I’m more of a plotser. I have a sort of piecemeal process that begins with a rough outline of about five key scenes, a protagonist, an antagonist, and at least one secondary character. I have a general idea of where the story starts and where it ends, but the middle is a complete mystery. As I start fleshing things out from the beginning, working toward each of the key scenes, characters and sub-plots start popping up and I kind of wing it from there. Honestly, my process is a mess. Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Roberta: Hah, well, as noted above, harnessing my writing process is my biggest challenge. I keep searching for a more streamlined approach, but haven’t found it yet.
TQ: Describe The Well of Tears in 140 characters or less.
Roberta: A post-Arthurian epic historical fantasy wherein a sorceress confronts a festering evil seeking to destroy her order and its magical legacy
TQ: What inspired you to write The Well of Tears?
Roberta: Initially I wanted to write about women stepping into power and all of the complications that presents. In the beginning, I had a character and story arc in mind, but no context or setting. About the same time, my older brother began researching our family history in Cornwall and Wales. I got caught up in his discoveries, which excited me because I felt like I suddenly had a personal connection to the land and the lore I had always loved. I found myself envisioning Alwen as a female version of Merlin, but the last thing I wanted to do was reinvent a legend that had been so well explored by other more talented writers. So I began looking for another time and place where sorcery might well have played a hand in the fates of mankind. Another writer, a lovely historian from Cornwall, introduced me to Hywel, a Welsh king who ruled about 500 years after Arthur and also achieved remarkable feats – as a man, and a monarch. As is the case with all of the history of these regions, very little is documented and most of what is believed to be true is basically an educated guess. This gave me some very fertile ground to work with, allowing me to blend fact and fantasy and create a legend of my own that is based at least in part on real events.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Well of Tears?
Roberta: The research for this book, and the rest that will follow in The Dream Stewards series, took about a decade. I spent several years revisiting the early medieval history studies from my college days which focused largely on Western Europe, and then moved on to both Nordic and Celtic mythology and folklore. I also studied early medieval culture, religions, and medicine. The Internet allowed me to reach out to librarians and historians all over the world, who were instrumental in helping me find some very obscure sources, as well as what little information there was about Hywel the Good and the events that shaped his legendary reign. It was a lot of work, and I’m afraid I have forgotten more than I remember, but I loved every minute of it. I tend to get lost in the research, which is my second biggest writing challenge.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Roberta: Ohhh, good question! The easiest character to write, by far, was Rhys. It was like he just arrived on my doorstep one day, completely self-aware and sure of who he was and why he was there. I never had to stop and ask myself, ‘now what would Rhys say’ or ‘what would he do’ or ‘how would he react’. I just knew. Alwen, on the other hand, gave me fits. She was a fight from start to finish. I think there was an ongoing struggle between who she was and who I wanted her to be, and I would guess this was because she is so representative of real women I know, dealing with the very real issues of career, family, and self-fulfillment in an environment that expects us to choose one over the other.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Well of Tears?
Roberta: I can’t say it is my favorite because it’s just so sad, but the scene I am most proud of comes about three-quarters of the way through the book. There is a point in the story where Alwen realizes she has made a horrible mistake, almost too late. And yet, even as she is devastated by an unimaginable loss, Alwen finds the strength to help Odwain, who is beyond heartbroken. Very tough to write. My actual favorites are the male bonding moments, like the scene where Bledig is assessing Odwain’s potential as a son-in-law. Another of my favorites is Alwen teaching Glain the finding spell and the whole thing goes awry.
TQ: What's next?
Roberta: Next is the sequel, tentatively titled THE KEYS TO THE REALMS. In the second book of The Dream Stewards, Alwen must recover the four talismans that unlock the power of the magical realms, unite the Circle of Sages, and stabilize the leadership of the Stewardry before Hywel can unite and stabilize his nation. Hywel battles his own demons in this book, including a younger brother who wants the crown for himself, and a sorceress who wants more from him than he is willing to give. Magic, mayhem. and political intrigue ensues, though not necessarily in that order.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Roberta: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me – you’ve got a great place here!
The Well of Tears
The Well of Tears
The Dream Stewards 1
47North, September 18, 2012
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 325 pages
More than five centuries after Camelot, a new king heralded by prophecy has appeared. As one of the last sorceresses of a dying order sworn to protect the new ruler at all costs, Alwen must answer a summons she thought she might never receive.
Bound by oath, Alwen returns to Fane Gramarye, the ancient bastion of magic standing against the rise of evil. For alongside the prophecy of the benevolent king, a darker foretelling envisions the land overrun by a demonic army and cast into ruin.
Alwen has barely set foot in her homeland when she realizes traitors lurk within the Stewardry, threatening to destroy it. To thwart the corruption and preserve her order, Alwen must draw upon power she never knew she possessed and prepare to sacrifice everything she holds dear—even herself. If she fails, the prophecy of peace will be banished, and darkness will rule.
THE WELL OF TEARS (47North, September 2012) is her first published novel, but hardly her last. Book Two of The Dreamstewards, THE KEYS TO THE REALMS, is coming soon!
Website : Idyll Conversation (Blog) : Twitter @robertatrahan : Facebook
What: One commenter will win a signed copy of The Well of Tears (The Dream Stewards 1) from Roberta Trahan!
How: Answer the following questions:
Who is one of your favorite rulers (queen, king, etc.) from history or myth?
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