Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Interview with Anne Leonard, author of Moth and Spark - February 19, 2014

Please welcome Anne Leonard to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Moth and Spark will be published on February 20, 2014 by Viking Adult (Penguin).

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Anne:  I wrote stories when I was a kid for as far back as I can remember, but it was around my 13th or 14th birthday, I no longer remember which, when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I got “inspired” and wrote an 80 page (hand-written) novel (TERRIBLE) in two weeks, and that was it. Life since then has been all about finding ways to write.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Anne:  A pantser for sure. I would like to be more of a plotter but I don’t think I’ll ever entirely switch alignment. My writing tends to be Throw it at the wall and see what sticks, but that’s not very efficient, so I’m trying to experiment more with outlining.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

Anne:  The most challenging thing has always been finding time and space to write, but within the writing process itself, endings are the hardest. They require the most control and rational thought, as opposed to the beginning, which is opening things up.

I have my own study in our house, which is where I do most of my writing, but I do take my laptop to the bedroom or the living room sometimes. I used to go out to coffeeshops, but noise is more of a distraction for me than it once was.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Anne:  J.R.R. Tolkien is of course an influence, if only because I reread Lord of the Rings so many times growing up, and also William Faulkner. My style isn’t actually very Faulknerian at all, but he was definitely one of the writers I most admired. Ursula K. Le Guin was also an influence, though more on a philosophical level than a style level – she was one of the first people I read who talked about women’s writing. For a long time my favorite contemporary writer was A.S. Byatt – right now it’s Cormac McCarthy.

TQ:  Describe Moth and Spark in 140 characters or less.

Anne:  Love, adventure, politics, dragons, magic, war, and a strong female protagonist. Character-driven. PG-13. To be read slowly, not gulped.

TQ:  Tell us something about Moth and Spark that is not in the book description.

Anne:  Parts of it are snarky. OK, seriously, I think it’s hard to tell from the book description that the background is more 19th century style than faux-medieval; there are porcelain tea-cups, gaslights, and indoor plumbing. I did mix the anachronisms a bit freely, since it’s a fantasy and I could. Plotwise, one of the things that’s not in the blurb is the complicated political machinations behind the wars.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Moth and Spark? Why did you choose to write Epic Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres or sub-genres?

Anne:  The basic story was really a story that wouldn’t let go of me and was getting in the way of other things I tried to write, so I started it just to get it out my system. I borrowed some things from Jane Austen (especially some of the minor characters). Then it took on its own life. Epic Fantasy was my favorite genre for years, so it’s not surprising that I wrote in that genre – what I like most about epic fantasy is the scale of the power plays combined with magic.

I definitely want to do other subgenres – SF, western fantasy, maybe urban fantasy or horror. Outside of the spec fic realm, historical novels are appealing. I might try a suspense novel. I do like genre crosses a lot.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Moth and Spark?

Anne:  Most of the research was on details – how far a horse can go in a day, effects of poisons, first common usage of particular words and phrases, that sort of thing. There’s research I did for things that wound up not making it into the final draft at all, including the history of cave paintings and scientific advances about electricity in the early 1800s.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Anne:  The easiest character was probably Corin, because he’s the most like other characters I’ve written before and because he was kind of the one I knew the most about in terms of backstory. The hardest character was probably the minor character Alina, because I couldn’t decide where I wanted her on the spectrum between true malice and pettiness.

I don’t have a favorite character per se. If I were to go out and write a story about any one character that was completely independent of MOTH AND SPARK it would be the old wizard-woman, Rois, because there is so much backstory about her to explore.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Moth and Spark.

Anne:  This is sort of like asking me to tell the punch line without the joke – my favorite lines really need to be heard in context. But one sentence which I am particularly fond of is this one from Chapter Fourteen: “Beneath it seeped the old powers and magics of the wizards, quiet and noiseless but ready to leak into what he so foolishly called real.”

TQ:  What's next?

Anne:  I’m working on another novel set in the same world that is darker and has some chapters in the viewpoint of the villain, which are very fun to write. After I manage to finish that one, I want to do a dystopian sort of world dominated by drought.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Anne:  Thanks for asking me, and for having good questions about writing.

Moth and Spark

Moth and Spark
Viking Adult, February 20, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

About Anne

Photo by Judith Love Pietromartire
Anne Leonard lives in Northern California. She has degrees from St. John’s College, the University of Pittsburgh, Kent State University, and University of California-Hastings College of Law. Leonard began MOTH AND SPARK while attending the University of California-Hastings College of Law (where she graduated cum laude) eking out a few hours on weekends or a half hour on the bus, or wherever she had the chance. After 3 years, she had a draft, but ultimately decided to practice law first. At last readers will be introduced to the deadly harsh steppe lands of Sarian, to the white-barked tree-lined streets of Caithenor.

Website  ~  Twitter @anneleonardauth


What:  One copy of Moth and Spark from the publisher. US  ONLY

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Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on February 27, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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  1. I will always have a soft spot for Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series .....

  2. I think I'll always be most impressed by Smaug from LoTR, even though he was mortal.

  3. My favorite novel featuring dragons is His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, and I love the whole Temeraire series as well.

  4. My favorite book and animation is "The Flight of the Dragons" by Peter Dickinson.

  5. Thanks for the great giveaway!

    My favorite thing that got me into dragons after largely overlooking them is the incredible movie How To Train Your Dragon! It came out, and then Sophie Jordan started releasing Firelight novels and then I discovered Starlighter and then it was never the same again!

  6. I loved GEORGE AND THE DRAGON with James Purefoy.

  7. Anne McCaffery's Dragon Riders of Pern series!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Dragons have been in my blood since I was a wee egg...Pern was one of my favorites in ages past and there are many more nowadays but a recent favorite is Dragon Orb by Mark Robson for two reasons: 1. My screenname inspired the original short story that then bloomed into a four book series and 2. Dragons! Oh and then there is the scifi YA by Timothy Zahn that features a dragon that lives on the main's skin like a tattoo and of course I've just finished the audiobook of The Dragonet Prophecy which was terrific and then there's Margaret Weis' newest steampunk series beginning with Shadow Raiders that has dragons in it too...sorry, I tend to get a bit enthusiastic when it comes to dragon books.

    I've always been much more enamored of dragons that aren't evil or just beasts but those that work with and/or against people and communicate just as a separate race of humans with different cultures and mores would.

  9. Oh, forgot to mention another one, Dragons of Wendal by Maria Schneider (it has griffins too, another one of my favorite creatures).