Author Interview: Autumn Birt

Today I continue the Friday interviews that I started several months ago. I’d like to welcome a friend of mine Autumn Birt. Autumn helped me out as I began using twitter to connect with people about my book. I will always be thankful for that. She is a fantasy author and I’m sure that what you are about to read will be very interesting.

Now Autumn, what interests you about writing fantasy?

Autumn: I would say it is the same reasons why I first fell in love with reading fantasy. And there are so many! I love to travel, especially to new places, and you can’t get much more unfamiliar as a new world where magic and mythical beasts lurk. And then there are all the other tropes typical of the genre – discovery of hidden abilities, overcoming great obstacles, vanquishing foes (even if you were born a nobody on the farthest farm from anywhere), and meeting awesome friends along the way.

That is what drew me to reading the genre, especially epic fantasy, but I guess what I really love about writing it is pushing beyond those typical scenarios to something new. In my epic fantasy trilogy, I avoided castles, swords, and even dragons – though I love all three. Instead, there is a lot of sailing and the setting is more mediterranean. The magic of the books is elemental based… but there are five abilities, not four. And that is the crux of the conflict in the books!

I also loved writing and pushing the ability to control each element into new territories. I have a science degree and that definitely shows up in the possibilities of elemental abilities. Such as controlling air means controlling gases. If you can thicken or thin clusters of air molecules as well as direct wind… well there is quite a lot you could do from lifting objects (or not allowing things to be lifted) to altering sound, which has to carry through air. You could take away someone’s breath. Figuring out the possibilities was half the fun of writing the battle scenes – which is usually where the most innovative uses occur!

Michael: I love how your real life understanding and experience has helped shape the fantastical elements of your stories. That is brilliant.

If you can please tell my readers, what is the name of your latest book and why did you call it that?

Autumn: My most recent series is titled Friends of my Enemy. It comes from the very old adage (first translated from Sanskrit!) “Friends of my enemy are also my enemy.” And that pretty much describes the books. They are dark fantasy/ near future dystopian and delve into the complications of love, friendships, and family mixed with personal goals. Plus there is a very powerful ‘real’ enemy. The story line is dark and complex, and was amazingly fun to write – as well as the most challenging thing I’ve written so far. More about that below!

The first of the four books is being released May 1st. It is called Stories from the War and contains 11 short stories that build the foundation for the three books that will come out this summer and fall. It is the only one of the four that stands alone, but the books are so much richer if you read them! You can find Stories for the War here.

Michael: So in case you haven’t figured it out – IT IS OUT TODAY! Go buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

So, this isn’t your first novel, you have several others. What are they?

Autumn: The first series I released was the epic fantasy trilogy the Rise of the Fifth Order. Those three books are Born of Water, Rule of Fire, and Spirit of Life.

Series-Banner-new

And if that isn’t enough, I’ve been releasing the individual short stories to Stories from the War for free (though I won’t be releasing all of them this way). May 1st also marks the release of the fifth short story, War in the Streets. First Meeting, Orders, Stirrings, and Beginning of the Guard are already out.

The easiest way to learn about both series is on their webpages at: the Rise of the Fifth Order and Stories from the War.

Michael: Great links, I particularly love the maps from The Rise of The Fifth Order. Good stuff.

Now, can you tell us a little about this new novel. 

Autumn: My newest series, Friends of my Enemy, really captivates me. I hope readers will feel the same! It is strongly character driven, so much so that many parts of the book wrote themselves. I simply needed to follow where the four main characters led.

And that is part of why it became challenging. These characters are fully formed and independent. One of them made a decision I never saw coming (even though it made complete sense) at the end of book 2. Up until that point, this was going to be a trilogy. I remember sitting there thinking, “am I really going to write that book? Am I going to go there?”

What I mean is that I knew where this decision would take the character and novel, and to write it would be a challenge – one that would have made me hesitate to write the series. But there I was, at the beginning of what was going to be the final book, but now would be 3 of 4, and wasn’t going to back out. I trusted the characters enough to keep going, and I love how it turned out. I love how much I developed as a writer and storyteller to make it happen. And that is why I love this series.

Michael: I’ve said this before, and I think it’s in one of my own interviews over at www.theworldofpangea.com but one of the things some readers don’t understand is that often characters write their own story, we just go along for the ride. For my readers, I’ve included the blurb of this book below.

First Meeting

A military dark fantasy with a touch of romance (because it is no fun when everyone dies and no one falls in love!) set in the near future. Our near future.

Europe stands better prepared to maintain a civilized society in the face of global catastrophes, pandemics, terrorism, and a changing climate. The USA answered its troubles by establishing a military government. Set in Europe, this is a story about a small handful of people whose lives interconnect. People who become influential as the world falls into a war in an era tumbling toward chaos. Each seeks to save Europe, but not all influence is good even when intentions are for the best, and not all decisions can be made in time.

Also available is the collection of short stories:

FofmeE-Stories-from-the-War-250

Autumn, who is your favourite character and why?

Ack! That is such a difficult question. I always joke that my favorite character is the one whose POV I’m currently writing in. I need to be so much in their head to write a scene well that I have to put aside my likes and dislikes, and accept who they are and what they are doing. But when it is all said and done…

In my epic fantasy series, I’m drawn to Darag, one of the heroes, and Sinika, the ‘villian.’ Sinika partially because he was so clever he was out-thinking me as I was writing. I never knew what he would do – or worse, why he was doing what he was doing –  and really, really worried that he would win. I’ll explain why Darag in the next question.

For the dark fantasy series… oh gosh. My immediate reaction would be Derrick Eldridge or Captain Jared Vries, though I do love Arinna Prescot too. They each have great attributes and really aspire to rise to be the best they can for all the right reasons – despite everything. Jared has a wicked smart mouth. Arinna is a bit of a maverick. And Derrick is so gosh darn competent, but doesn’t think that is anything special. If I could be reincarnated as any of them, I’d be thrilled!

Do you see any aspects of yourself in any of the characters?

Autumn: So this brings me back to Darag. The Rise of the Fifth Order was my first series and written a bit more personally – before I’d really gotten my feet wet as a writer. So a few of those characters hold more of me or friends than my newest work. Ria contains a few of my fears, at least the ones I held when 16. Niri utilized a bit of my inventiveness. She is perceptive and always finding a way through, even when she leaps without looking. And Darag is someone I’d very much like to be. He grows so much in confidence as well as abilities, and I feel a kinship with him that I can’t explain. Maybe his path for magic is like my path for writing? I’m not sure, but I know he stuck in my mind quite a bit after I finished writing the series, especially considering the horrible place I left him in… which led to my newest WIP!

Michael: For those who don’t know – WIP is shorthand we writers use for work in progress.

What is your newest work in progress and what makes it different?

Autumn: I’ve already spoken about how the Rise of the Fifth Order is unique for epic fantasy and Friends of my Enemy is just completely unlike anything I’ve written or thought I could write. So why is Games of Fire different? Especially considering it is set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order, and begins six months after that trilogy ends.

So this is different to the book that’s out today? I just want to clarify that for my readers.

Yes, when I finished writing the Rise of the Fifth Order, I thought I was done with the world and series. Which was really painful considering it was my first series, and took over three years to write. I loved those characters. And I left them in a positive, but tough, situation.

They kept bothering me, popping into my head while I was at work or driving. But I wasn’t going to write another book without a good reason. I don’t like rehashes written just because the author couldn’t let go… or wanted to sell more books. So I sat down with the characters and gently explained that unless they came up with a great novel, they needed to go away (have you ever noticed most writers sound completely insane?!?). Well, they gave me a great reason. The Rise of the Fifth Order introduced the world, and the world building I did to write it created a history, but I had completely missed a huge problem brewing. HUGE. I think my subconscious wanted to keep writing from the beginning, because there are little clues throughout the series that lead up to… well a new trilogy.

So it is different because, like the Rise of the Fifth Order trilogy, this isn’t a book that includes any elves, orcs, dwarves, or castles. You don’t need a spellbook to cast magic. Abilities are based on the elements but have crazy rules and there are five abilities. There are occasional dragons, one important sword, and a lot of water to cross, plus a desert, some mountains, and lots of different cultures. And it is a whole new storyline not based on the first books, though many characters reappear. It will stand alone though… and be quite dramatic!

Great! I always ask this question as I end an interview. Can you share some advice to any first time novelist?

Autumn: Absolutely! Hire an editor, use a professional looking cover (and if you don’t know what that is, browse through the top 100 books in your genre and you’ll see very quickly), don’t get discouraged, and write well and write a lot. I didn’t do ANY of those things when I first published Born of Water, so I’m speaking from solid experience.

Amazon makes it so easy to upload a book. At least Smashwords gives you a style guide! I designed my own cover and did a horrible job (I might change it yet again one of these days). I have an English degree and figured I had the editing thing down (big nope). And then it took me a year to write Rule of Fire. Of course, during that time I had Born of Water edited, made a much better cover, and realized that this was a series and I’d better darn well 1. name it and 2. figure out the plot. Despite all of those shortcomings, people actually liked both books – and they wanted the third. Which took another year.

That is why I say write a lot. My biggest advice to a novelist is if you plan on doing this as something more than a hobby (because some people are really happy to have a book out and that is it), you should write an entire series and release it in a year in quick succession. And of course, don’t wait until you release it to blog/tweet/facebook about it (like I did as well). Start talking about it before you write page 1. Take any reader who stumbles onto your writing with you on the journey. THAT is extremely powerful. And it is fantastic to have people rooting for you.

As a reader, I hate waiting forever between books. So as an author, hearing about readers who wanted to know when the next book was out really made me squirm. A year between books in a series is okay, but not great. Six months is better.

So even though I have a whole series under my belt, with Friends of my Enemy I’m finally taking my own advice. Professional covers, great editing, and the whole series in one year. It is fully written. I’m working on final edits for book 2. I’ve been releasing the individual short stories 2 weeks apart. Book 1 is live on May 1st and after that the individual books will be 2 months apart. Don’t believe me, check the series page: www.nomapnomad.com/ww/friends-of-my-enemy/!

Yes, it is a crazy schedule, but I have a good friend releasing 15 books this year. I’m only planning 5 (Spark of Defiance, the first book to Games of Fire will be out before Christmas too!). This is what it takes to keep fans and readers engaged. So if you want to be an author, you have to treat it as a business. If I’m still sane in the fall, I’ll let you know how it is going!

Michael: That is crazy, and I am guilty of releasing just one book and releasing the second a year later. So, perhaps my fans should learn from there Autumn.

If someone wants to contact you how can they do it?

Autumn: I love hearing from people! The easiest way is the contact form on my website www.AutumnWriting.com. But you can find me on twitter too @weifarer, on Facebook or on Google+. I’m even on Pinterest where I love sharing book quotes using my husband’s photos! Say hi!

Michael: Autumn, thank you for sharing, we will have to have you back soon. For those who want to know a little more about Autumn but aren’t quite ready to go visit her site, here is a brief bio.

Autumn Birt Bio PicI’m a writer!
Oh you probably wanted to know more than that.  🙂 And there is more, but writing is my passion. Despite the headaches of learning to edit, market, design covers, create websites, plot stalls, limited time… despite any drawback you can list, I love writing. That really is the first thing you should know about me.
Besides that, I live in Maine in a small, off-grid cottage I built with my husband (our two Cairn terriers supervised). I love to travel though. I would list that as the second passion in my life. And I prefer slow travel: hiking, sailing, kayaking, and motorcycling. Especially the motorcycling! I have an F650 BMW that is my favorite thing next to a writing device (preferably a portable writing device). If I could have my way, I’d spend months touring far off countries on a motorbike split with long bouts writing in small cabins next to lakes or cabanas on a beach. Internet connection would be a must.
Until that day, I have a day job that is actually pretty cool. I’ve worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service since 2002. It is a great job that not only lets me help the environment and protect local agriculture, but also provides a paycheck big enough to support my writing habit (at least until it grows up and supports itself)!
You can find my travel writing featured on the adventure travel website No Map Nomads where I am the co-editor and writer. I’m also a member of Guild of Dreams, which features my blog posts as well as those of eleven other fantasy writers.
I have plans for many further adventures both real and fictional. So stay tuned and stay in touch. I love to hear from people!
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