First lets thank Anne Elisabeth Stengl for being here! She hasgraciously granted me an interview, and I am sure that you all want to know what she had to say, so here it is:
Is there anything that you would like to tell us about yourself?
Hi there! I am a bookish, introverted, crazy-cat-lady novelist type. Most people wouldn’t guess the introverted bit because I appear outgoing in public, but it’s the truth! I live with my husband, Rohan, in a little house on a hill beside a bamboo forest. I spend my days taking care of my (now six!) cats, my big fluffy dog, and writing fairy tale novels. I also edit, dabble in design, mentor writing students, and sometimes still find opportunity to draw/paint and practice piano. I love listening to opera, drinking Ceylon tea, and going dancing with my husband.
Shadow Hand is your newest novel. Can you tell us about the story?
Shadow Hand is book 6 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood. It picks up where my third novel, Moonblood, leaves off. But this story takes secondary characters from earlier novels and makes them the protagonists. Thus readers finally get into the head and heart of “bad girl” Lady Daylily and “pathetic” Prince Foxbrush . . . maybe to discover that neither is so bad or pathetic as previously thought.
The story is loosely based on the Ballad of Tam Lin, St. Patrick legends, and a George MacDonald fairy tale, all rolled up into an ancient jungle setting. It deals with several different time periods, connecting stories from the past with stories of the present. It is quite a wild ride!
When did you first start writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. My mother began her career as a professional novelist when I was still quite young, and I was always inspired by watching her work. It was quite a natural step for me to take up the pen myself.
Where did you get the idea for the Tales of Goldstone Wood?
I couldn’t really say. The ideas are still growing, and the initial inspiration is pretty hard to pinpoint. When I was fourteen I started penning a variety of stories all set in the same world but in different times and locations. Each story referenced the others, but they weren’t a “series,” per se, because they didn’t move in any specific chronological order. Not unlike the Tales of Goldstone Wood as it looks today! I know I wrote down the first ideas for Dragonwitch when I was seventeen, and the first ideas for Starflower came soon after that. Those are probably the oldest ideas to make it into the series as it is today.
How many novels do you so far plan to write in the series?
Well, until recently I would have said 15. But, as is usually the case, each time I write a story, new ideas crop up. So I couldn’t give you an exact number at this point. More than 15, that much I know!
Do you have any plans for other series?
Possibly. At the moment I’m pretty focused on Goldstone Wood, however. It’s such a broad world with limitless scope, so it’s hard to think outside of it just now.
Could you tell us your publishing story?
I wrote my debut novel, Heartless, when I was 21. I found an agent the year after, and she found a publisher less than a year after that. It was almost miraculously quick, really! I definitely see God’s hand in bringing my work to Bethany House and giving me the chance to launch this series . . . which has turned into something much bigger and more exciting than I ever could have imagined!
Out of all your characters, could you tell us which is your favorite and why?
Oh, definitely Eanrin, Bard of Rudiobus, poet and cat. I have been writing about him since the early days of Goldstone Wood, and he has always been a favorite! I mean, I am a crazy-cat-lady after all . . .
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
For some reason I usually struggle with beginnings. The beginning of Dragonwitch was the most difficult writing I’ve ever done! Shadow Hand also gave me pain at first, trying to find the right opening. But I will say the next three projects—Goddess Tithe, Golden Daughter, and Draven’s Light—have all started out really nicely for me, and the beginnings didn’t change much from the first lines I pounded out. So maybe I’ve broken that trend? (Knock on wood.)
Do you have a favorite part of writing?
Finishing. I love the whole creative process, but there is nothing quite like writing the climax of a story that has consumed my life for the past several months . . . and then putting that final, finishing flourish on the end. It’s an enormously satisfying feeling. So satisfying that I can’t wait to jump into the next project so I can work up to that moment again!
Here on Backing Books, every Wednesday we have a Writing Tip. Do you have any tips or tricks to share with us?
Hmmmm . . . I suppose I would suggest this: Each writer should figure out what matters to her or him. Right now. What is the issue weighing on your heart? Is it crippling self-doubt? Is it striving toward a specific goal? Is it a broken heart? Is it anxiety about the future? Is it grappling with grief? I recommend each writer to find out what is currently the driving force in her or his heart . . . and then shape stories around that.
Successful stories are stories that matter. Particularly stories that matter to the writers writing them. If you can communicate something that personally, deeply matters to you right now into your story, you will find your audience. If you try to write about someone else’s concerns, someone else’s problems . . . it’ll never mean as much. Not to you, not to your readers.
This is a similar tip to the classic “Write What You Know.” But I don’t necessarily agree with that tip. It tends to make people think too small. But writers should write from personal experience, personal pain, personal drive, hopes, and dreams. And aspect of “writing what you know” is absolutely vital to creating an absolutely vital story.
What inspires you?
Great writing inspires me. I try to surround myself with great writing—great reading—all the time. Both classics and modern. I don’t bother with writing I find thin, inauthentic, or trivial. But I read a variety of genres, styles, and narrative voices. A good writer is a good reader.
And finally, my favorite question for every author: Is there anything that occurs in your novel that has happened to you in real life?
Well, the old-Southlander dish Foxbrush eats at one point in the story . . . I’ve eaten that too! And was equally surprised by the spicy heat that could burn your tongue out. But oh my, it’s delicious! It’s based on a Sri Lankan dish called Seenie Sambol, and I hope to share a recipe on the book page one of these days .
Are there any ways for readers to learn more about you and your book?
Readers can find me in the following places:
And readers may also visit the Shadow Hand Book Page to learn more about this particular story! Be certain to click the book tiles on the side bar to go to those book pages as well.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Rebekah!
Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. Her books include Christy Award-winning Heartless and Veiled Rose, and Clive Staples Award-winning Starflower. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration and English literature at Grace College and Campbell University.
Facebook: Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Author
Shadow Hand (available now):
This is a story about love, and blood, and the many things that lie between . . .By her father's wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. Unable to bear the future she sees as her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.
But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal fey parasite . . .
A world that is hauntingly familiar.
Golden Daughter (coming November 2014)
BEYOND THE REALM OF DREAMS
IS A WORLD SHE NEVER IMAGINED
Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.
But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?
For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.