Today I’m pleased to introduce you to my great writing friends, and all time favorite people on writeblr! Quill is mostly a fantasy and sci-fi author, and shares excerpts from their WIPs in the universe of One Siren’s Soul – a fantastical adventure with pirates and sirens set in an alternate-universe, 1700s-era, Age of Sail Earth version of earth. It has a colorful cast of absolutely delightful characters, and one of the coolest magic systems I’ve ever seen, so I’m absolutely thrilled to share their work with you today!
Etta: Hello and welcome! First could you introduce yourself and talk a little about what you write?
Quill:Hello hello! It’s a lovely honour to be in this metaphorical interview room. You have wonderful virtual decor. I’ve had more than a few names, but you can call me Quill! Half of the time, I almost couldn’t tell you what I write–most of my notebooks are filled with bits and bobs from all sorts of genres, writing exercises and random dream journaling that make not a lick of sense (sometimes not even to me). But of what I let see the light of day, my writing usually focuses on the fantasy or sci-fi genres, with worldbuilding that often begins as something simple enough and then that side of the brain that makes everything difficult kicks in and decides it should be super deep and complex. I definitely love to dabble in all sorts of things, but I have to say, something about that “magic is science and science is magic” aspect just holds me enraptured
Etta: Thank you for agreeing to do this! ahh the “magic is science and science is magic” approach to worldbuilding is my favorite and I’m so excited to hear your answers. Let’s start at the beginning, When you start developing a magic system, what’s your starting point?
Welcome everyone! In June, I focused on the topic of tropes and adaptations, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview one of my writer friends about her area of expertise! I’ve been following Karkki’s The Shield-Maiden Saga and other WIPs over on tumblr for about two years. It’s always a blast to see the new updates and lore, so I was happy for the excuse to host a Q&A, and honored to share the results with you! Thank you Karkki for agreeing to do this! I’m super excited to share her creativity with you all today. For this interview, my parts and questions are in the headings, and their responses are everything written below.
Question 1 – First, can you tell me about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, and what you write?
Thank you so much for inviting me to be interviewed! I’m Karkki, a Finnish architecture student in my mid-twenties. Other than writing I paint, sew, pet my cat and hike. I’ve been writing since I was around ten. At first it was just scenes of my OCs (I had a whole cinematic universe of them), but the first book form story I started to write, I did around 14, I think. Nowadays I write mostly adult dark fantasy, often smashed together with various different genres 😀
Question 2 – You write a lot of stories inspired by history and mythology; how did you first get into these topics?
I had a very strong Egyptian mythology phase when I was kid, like many others it seems. I was obsessed with it and I’ve always been fascinated by history. Later, in my teens I read an article about historical research on Vikings and it rekindled my interest in history and mythology. I got one of my earliest book ideas from that too, which after many twists and turns has become a historical fantasy WIP, The Shield-Maiden Saga. I gained interest in the more recent history after watching Pride and Prejudice (1995 of course) like many others.
Question 3 – How do you go about doing research?
I start with Wikipedia. It is a hole that sucks me in and won’t let me go. But even though it doesn’t contain the most in-depth and nuanced info, it’s a great way to learn of the things you want to learn about. After I’ve found interesting things I want to learn more about, I look for articles, books and videos. Depending on what I’m writing I pay attention to the credibility of the information. For historical fiction I look for multiple sources and make sure the text has proper sources. If I’m researching for fantasy, I only really focus on what is interesting and gives me inspiration.
Question 4 – How much of the research actually goes into the stories? Do you prefer to write AUs, strict historical fiction, or historically-inspired-fantasy?
All of them actually. Well, by AU I mostly mean our universe but with fantasy elements. My WIPs include historical fantasy set in Viking Age (which I mentioned) with some grounded history and a ton of fantasy elements, high fantasy inspired mostly from Regency period, Roman Empire and Finnish mythology, high fantasy inspired mostly by Victorian Era and Republic of Venice, and my newest WIP historical fiction set in Golden Age of Piracy with some magical realism. I’d say in the end a lot of the research never, at least directly ends up in the book. With historical fiction most of it is building the world and it’s in the background but might not be directly referred to. With high fantasy it’s even less as most of it is for inspiration and therefore not included as it is.
Question 5 – Do you get the idea for the story first, and then do research around the premise, or do you get story ideas from your research? Top down or bottom up?
My writing process is very messy 😀 I usually get a very broad idea I vibe with. Then I start researching it and get a lot more ideas and the story starts to shape up as I’m researching. I sometimes also read something not related to writing and inspiration hits. With high fantasy it’s usually more top down, I research something specific I need ideas.
Question 6 – What are your favorite historical periods and mythologies?
I have always a hard time picking my favorite anything so I’ll have to mention several. My favorite historical periods are the between World Wars period, Victorian Era, Golden Age of Piracy, Italian Renaissance, Late Medieval Period, Viking Age, Classical Rome, Ancient Egypt, Edo and Meiji periods in Japan and the Warring State Period in China. For mythologies: Finnish, Sámi, Egyptian, Celtic, Japanese, Slavic and Etruscan mythology. There’s a lot more historical periods and mythologies especially outside Europe I’m really interested in, but don’t know enough yet to say if they are my favorites or not. I am in the process of learning about the things I never learned in school.
Question 7 – What are some of your favorite tropes from mythology to use in your own writing?
One of my favorites, that I can’t stop using, is the concept of spirit and or magic residing in blood. I’ve come across it or something similar at least in Norse, Finnish and Sámi mythology. In Norse myths there’s stories of drinking the blood of an animal and gaining some of their abilities. In Finnish mythology though, the magic is described to be specifically inside bones, where the blood gets created. Another related trope I enjoy a lot is magic and spirit being one and the same. In Finnish mythology humans have three souls, one of them is an elf, also known as luonto (nature) or väki. Väki means both folk and power. The elves are often referred to as “väki”, but so is magic. It’s where humans gain their magical abilities.
One last trope I’ll mention is the very common trope of natural spirits. There’s the Finnish elves and Greek nymphs and many many others. I just really love anthropomorphic nature.
Question 8 – Do you subvert any of the classic tropes that you adapt?
One thing I like to do is include evil spirits and reveal they are not that evil actually and include good spirits and show them to be more questionable. Nature can see evil sometimes in it’s hostility, but it never really is. It’s always neutral. A specific instance of a subverted trope I’ve done is how I included Tyrfing, a cursed sword from Völsung Saga into The Shield-Maiden Saga. The sword is not actually cursed, rather it has an imprisoned elf inside, who just happens to be very bloodthirsty and sadistic.
Question 9 – How do you fit magic systems into your historical elements?
I often base my magic systems at least partly on mythology. I always make sure though that the magic system never works exactly like in mythology (or the internal mythology of the world). Mythology is born to explain the world people don’t understand so it would lose a lot of cultural context, if it was an accurate description of the world. When I create my own world, I often start with a magic system and then think about what kind of mythologies different cultures would build around it and other natural phenomena. When I use real world, I start with the existing mythologies and think how the magic would really work. I often combine different mythologies and add my own spins, as I don’t want to give the impression that any one culture got it right. I also often use a softer magic system. I feel like it better conveys the feeling of how science and magic worked back then. People didn’t know how they worked, but by trial and error they found some things that worked often, but not always.
Question 10 – Do you have any advice for other writers looking to build a historical-fantasy-scifi story?
First of all, if you take inspiration from the history of a culture you are not part of, do your research extra well. And if you’re writing historical fiction, double that. Use sources by the culture, since you’ll easily get a very biased view from the sources written by outsiders. If you are planning a world of your own, I’d suggest taking a broad look at a lot of different cultures and eras even if you know what period you’ll take inspiration from. It’ll give you a feel on the ways societies and cultures shape and what things are not universal.
But the main point is to have fun with it. If you don’t like researching, no worries, there’s no rule that says your fiction has to be historically accurate. Though if you don’t already know the culture intimately this approach might not work well. At the end of the day though, there’s no rules in writing at all. Read about the things that interest you and emphasize them in your writing. It shows positively when you lean into your passions.
11 – Where can we find you and your work?
I tell about my writing progress and WIPs more or less regularly on my Tumblr blog @kittensartwriting! I’m always happy to find more like-minded writing buddies!
Thank you so much to Karkki for agreeing to be a guest on today’s post! I enjoy picking my friends’ brains with overly specific questions about certain things, so it was fascinating for me to read through all the detailed thoughtful answers with SO MANY brilliant ideas behind them. I’m thrilled to be able to share it with my readers too. If you liked reading about her process, I highly recommend checking out the rest of Karkki’s work and supporting her WIPs! You absolutely won’t regret it. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next week! 🙂
Welcome to April’s Special Feature! Today I’m talking with one of my great writer friends about how they create epic immersive fantasy worlds! Siarven is an incredible author and illustrator, and I’ve recently had the absolute honor of beta-reading their WIP, Dreams Shadow, which features in this interview. I’m super excited to share their cleverness and creativity with you all today! For this interview, my parts and questions are in the headings, and their responses are everything written below.
Question 1: First can you tell me about yourself and what you write?
Hello 🙂 I’m Jana, I go by Siarven online 🙂 I’m 24 and currently study VFX with a focus on Concept Art. Storytelling has always been my first and most powerful passion, from telling stories out loud to myself (and my little brother) when I was small, to visual storytelling in various different forms, to loving film scores most of all because they tell a story with sound. Besides art and writing, I also play the flute & piccolo and love to sing because music has always been incredibly important to me. I adore the natural world (plants and animals and fungi and such) because it’s deeply fascinating to me and am very passionate about protecting it from destruction. Also just in general, I’m absolutely obsessed with how our world “works” from a cellular level upward, geography, biology, physics, how everything interlinks to make our world the way it is. Most of this stuff ends up in my wips in one form or another 😀 I also love hiking and going places by bike, and usually take my camera because nature photography is also my favourite ❤
I’m from Germany but prefer to write in English because I like my writing style a lot more and the German publishing industry kinda sucks but that’s a whole other can of worms… I mainly write hope-punk dark epic fantasy stories, but, to be fair, they’re usually a very wild mix of things that interest me, so you can find elements from all kinds of genres in there 🙂 The general important things are that it’s all rather hope punk, both protagonists and antagonists have rather grey morality levels, there’s a variety of cool creatures, powerful platonic relationships of various kinds abound, and there’s an often rather mean magic system. Basically all my characters are some shade of queer because that’s very important to me personally. It also almost always spirals out of control because I love complex, interwoven story lines the most, which is very unfortunate for me. XD
Question 2: When you start a WIP, what’s your starting point? Do you build worlds from the ground up, or does the story come first, and you paint in the world as a backdrop as needed, or something in the middle?
Interesting question! 😀 I’d say it varies, actually? My main WIP Dream’s Shadow grew out of an image of a young boy’s ghost standing behind his grieving mother at his hospital bed. Like Dragons of Old grew out of roughly 20 paper scraps where I’d scribbled small random ideas like character names, character relationships, a striking visual, things like that. My newest WIP seed (I haven’t started writing it but I could in theory start now if I wanted to) grew out of an art I started for a uni course and two picrew portraits. xD In general, I think I start with two or three characters and how they relate to one another and the world around them, and all of that kind of grows organically at the same time. I don’t excessively world build, character-build, or plot before I start writing. I have a beginning, an ending (where the characters start and where they end up), I have a rough idea of what their world might look like, and then all of those things grow and develop as I write. But, mind you, I’m not sure how all of this will develop in future WIPs 😀 I’m still quite far at the beginning of this entire journey, and I usually only plan ahead a bit and then see how stuff works out 🙂
Welcome to January’s Special Feature! Today I’m talking with one of my great writer friends about how she writes complex and compelling character arcs! Katie is an accomplished author who writes across several genres including Fantasy, Sci-fi, Horror, Poetry, and Contemporary summer reads. She also does art, and drew the illustration of her OC, Bolte, for this post’s header/preview image. Katie is active in the writing community on tumblr and is one of the nicest people I’ve met there, so I’m happy to be able to share her fantastic personality and advice with you today!
Thank you so much to Alina who nominated me for this award!! She’s so sweet and her blog is really great so I highly recommend checking it out! I’m honored that you would consider me for this and I can’t say how grateful I am to have the opportunity to participate in and promote some interaction in the online writing community!
Thank the blogger that nominated you
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you
Nominate 11 bloggers
Ask your nominees 11 questions
Notify your 11 nominees
When did you start blogging? I started blogging a little over a year ago on tumblr! I’d just graduated high school and wanted to do something fun and productive with my summer before going to college so I started my writeblr and the rest is history. I started this website/blog this August after finishing the manuscript for Storge! Finally completing that first draft was a massive confidence booster that helped me take a big step into more formally promoting my writing.
What is one extreme sport that you’d like to try? I’ve swam for years so I’d like to try scuba diving! Does that count as an extreme sport? That and skiing and mountain climbing. I enjoy individual and outdoors sports a lot.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Hopefully I’ll have graduated college with a chemical engineering degree and have a stable first job within a few months! I’m not sure where the career will take me quite yet, but I’m going to be continuing to write and build my author’s platform in the meantime as I get my footing in the real world of being an independent adult.
What’s something new you want to try? There’s a really cool group of people called the Renegade Bindery that collects resources and tips on how to bind books – specifically fanfiction – at home. I’d love to bind a fic for one of my good friends when I have the time/money for materials/equipment.
What is one fruit/vegetable which you certainly do not like? I’m not a fan of olives, they’re usually too salty for me to eat without choking down a gallon of water. They’re fine in dishes and on pizza though.
Who’s someone you look up to? I’m going to answer a few different people for different aspects of this question if that’s ok! – My go-to answer for this question is usually St. Catherine of Alexandria, my confirmation saint! She has an incredible story which I recommend checking out, and I try to emulate her actions and her Faith in my day to day life. I also really admire da Vinci for how he dedicated himself to studying the world and finding the beauty in science. I often pick up new hobbies in an attempt to learn as much as possible and follow that example of never not learning. -For writing inspirations, like any self-respecting fantasy author and Catholic nerd, I have a massive respect for J.R.R. Tolkien’s work! I also love Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quintet and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain!
What sport do you wish you were good at? Running! I did swim team for years so you’d think I’d have good cardio and endurance but whether it’s track and field or cross country, I’ve never been able to keep up very well whenever I’m on land.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Probably cookies and cream or something chocolate and fudgy unless I’m having fall deserts like pumpkin pie and apple crisp. Then butter pecan and vanilla are best.
Would you rather be the protagonist or the antagonist in your favorite movie/book? Can I opt to be the sarcastic sidekick instead? I’d be happy being one of the protagonists in The Princess Bride though!
What is one subject that you studied/are studying that you despise? I hated both the math classes I’ve taken in college (Calc III and Linear Algebra) but I don’t know if that’s an instance of “difficult professor + COVID” or if I just genuinely hated the subject. Currently, I don’t like accounting very much. It’s an important subject and I understand that someone has to do it, but it’s best for someone who’s very linear-thinking and detail oriented and that person is not me.
What is your favorite sauce? This is such an interesting open ended question! Condiment? I’m not sure…do those count as sauces? Probably ketchup in that case. For pasta, Alfredo is my favorite.
What’s your favorite part about the writing community?
Do you prefer writing dialogue or description, and why?
Do you have any creative hobbies outside of writing, and how did you get into them?
When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?
Are you reading/watching/listening to anything right now that you’re excited about?
What’s your favorite YouTube channel?
What writing advice would you give your younger self?
What’s your opinion on color coding?
Is there a specific theme or aesthetic that underlies all your stories?
How many WIPs do you have?
What’s your wildest dream as a creator? (for example, do you want to see fanart of your ocs, have a movie made of your book, etc?)
Thank you again Alina for nominating me! This was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to meeting more people in the community. I’m always happy to work with otherwriters, so feel free to reach out if you have any ideas for this blog. Take care, and happy writing! 🙂
Welcome to my first interview post! *celebration trumpet sounds*
I had the honor of working with Max Gray to talk about how he got started with his author’s platform and how he approaches engagement in the community. Max is a trans writer (using he/him pronouns) who writes contemporary works, almost always with some kind of queer romance involved. He is currently planning a surrealism novel called Plant Life, and is drafting a fanfiction called Superkids.
Question 1: Why did you first start posting your writing online – not just for your current WIP but where did you get your start? The first step is a big one, so I want to hear about how you came to take it.
Max: Well, I actually started out on Wattpad with my girlfriend at the time. I’ve been writing since I was in first grade, but it was always off and on, until my girlfriend at the time and I started writing together, and we posted all of our books on Wattpad. I think the main reason was probably just because we had fun with them, and wanted to talk to other people about the stories and characters. For both Plant Life and Superkids, I started posting about them pretty much as soon as I got the idea. If I didn’t have people actively waiting to read Superkids, and excited for it, I probably would have given up on the story a while ago.
Etta: It’s really cool that you were able to find your community so quickly, and that they’ve been so encouraging to your writing process!