books

Changing of the sun – Author interview with Lesley Smith

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Author name: Lesley Smith
Book title: The Changing of the Sun
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Release date: 7th October 2014
 
 

1. Quickly, give us a 30-word or less tagline:

 
The world is ending, a solar storm is about to burn Kashinai civilisation from the face of their home world. Only the blind oracles of Aia, in the form of a priestess named Saiara, can save her species, if only they will listen.

2. How, and when, did you discover that you wanted to be a writer? 
 
I started when I was ten. Then I went to uni, did my BA in Theology and Religious Studies and trained as a journalist. Nearly a decade later, I realised fiction was going to save my sanity and started writing full-time. I’ve been doing it ever since.

3. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

 
Oh this universe has always been there, the first characters appeared during my first attempts at writing. I like to say that some stories demand to be told and this is one of them. I’m simply the one who puts fingers to a keyboard. The Changing of the Sun refers to a solar event that the locals called ‘Thaeos’ Rage’, and follows the people of Ishvei’s World, later called Coronis by humanity, through three tumultuous periods in their existence. This series is almost like three seasons of a TV show, each book has the same cast playing different roles as we travel down through the history of Ishvei’s World and the chance to write the same people wearing different faces, it intrigues me. Not all the characters show up in each book and they’re not always the same species or gender either but their souls shine right through the pages.

4. Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

 
Ah the covers, they’re lovely aren’t they? I knew from the moment I saw Jason Gurley’s covers for Hugh Howey’s work and I knew I wanted him. I decided to do a Kickstarter to cover the costs and I was lucky to snag Jason before he retired from cover designing. Because this was a trilogy of booksThe Changing of the Sun, The Parting of the Waters and The Shadow of the Stars—I knew I needed the same designer for all three books. Jason sent me lots of concepts and I actually changed my mine, his initial concept was for an obviously sci fi feel, and what attracted me about Jason was his ability to take a motif or an image inspired by the book rather than recreating a specific scene. So for Changing he created an eclipse, for Parting we had a double moon rise over the ocean and Shadow has the cloud contrails just before dawn, the point where the night is darkest. Of the three Parting is my favourite, I think.

5. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
 
It’s actually a toss up. I have two characters I love, the first is Sarivashi, a slave who becomes scribe to Saiara. She’s smart and incredibly loyal but she also knows there’s more to their universe than what the Kashinai can see; it was her story (or rather the one of one of her future lives) which kicked off the Changing trilogy in the first place, it was all about filling in backstory I didn’t yet have. The second, well she’s not really a character. Her name is Jeiana and she’s not Kashinai, she’s slowly forgetting what she was before her drowned body washed up on the beach after a tsunami. She’s simply passing through and this isn’t her story, not really, but it doesn’t mean she won’t grow to love or find attachments. Her mortality is what makes me like her.

6. How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

 
Ah now that’s easier. You’d think I might say Jashri, the main villain, but the story is as much about her, about her journey to darkness and back, as it is about Saiara’s attempt to save her species. My least favourite is Darus, he’s mean and nasty but the reason I don’t like is that he never learns from his mistakes. He’s a blunt instrument when you need a scalpel.

7. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

 
It’s 149k words so probably the length. I had to post a print copy to the States and it weighed nearly a kilo. I’m actually recommending people read my books on their e-reader simply to save their wrists but these three tales, they need to be this length and I wouldn’t change that aspect, even though I’m sure I could make the text even tighter.

8. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

 
  • I have a habit of sneaking in geek references from TV series and media I enjoy like Doctor Who andGame of Thrones. For example, in the prequel novella, there’s a big reference to Jo Graham’s Numinous World books, which I adore, as well as River Song.
  • Names usually mean something, there’s often a root or a particular meaning. I blame my love of religious studies and world mythology.
  • I have two spreadsheets, the first contains fifty stories/books/tales and whatnot all set in the Ashteraiverse. This also includes an urban sci fi series, an urban fantasy series and an epic fantasy quintet. If you look carefully, you’ll see cameos or references scattered across my stories which confirm everything actually takes place in one massive multiverse. This is my ten year plan.

9. What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?
 
I’ve not come across anything totally like what I write. The closest would be Jo Graham’s Numinous World, they’re a series of historical fiction books focusing on the adventures of a soul called Gull as she’s reborn through different periods in Earth’s history, from Alexander’s campaigns to the modern day. I love the books because they have strong male and female narrators who are sexually liberated but also in service to a higher power. From a fantasy point of view, perhaps the Aurian books by Maggie Furey or Dune when it comes to sheer scope. Actually, that one is Nick Cole’s fault but he’s right … ditto about the Game of Thrones comparisons as well: everyone dies in my books, often several times, but it’s not their deaths which are important rather the lives lived. The best comparison on that front is actually a TV show: Da Vinci’s Demons, that has just the right mix of awesomeness and metaphysical overtones.

10. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

 
Well I’m an archer. I’m only an amateur but when you give a blind girl a bow and arrows capable of killing another human being … it gets interesting. I’ve gone from ‘ow this is heavy’ to being able to shoot two golds on a standard target out of three after only twelve hours tuition. I’m also a keen baker and have been known to sing now and again, when the stars are just right. I’m also a gamer and have a deep love of all things Japanese, especially Shinto and the horror.

11. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

 
I’m on Twitter as @LesleySmith. I have a website (obviously) and I don’t yet have a Wikipedia page or my own zombie army. I do have three cats and a guide dog though. You can also email me (please do!) atlesleysmith@me.com. I’m planning on releasing at least two books a year by crowdsourcing until Kickstarter give me some kind of award for openness and campaign transparency.

12. What can we expect from you in the future?

 
Well I’m about to Kickstart the next book in the series. I’m launching that the same day as Changing officially goes live and I’m hoping to raise £3000 to cover print runs, beautiful interior art and editing so the book will be ready for release next summer. In Fall, my short story “The Barn That Hanna Built” will be appearing in the anthology Tales From Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania which is quite exciting as I’m told it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
 
I’m retired and writing remains the fun thing I love to do (regardless of the stress that comes with it) and I want to make beautiful books and tell amazing stories. I’m currently working on Parting ahead of it’s launch next year as well as Lesser Evils (an urban sci fi story about a muse and her Aspergic techno-nerd husband who are playing at being human at a point in future history where psychics are outlawed in Northern America and aliens make Contact), a sci-fi detective story called Blood and Starstone about a Kashinai priestess living in London during a spate of murders and the appearance of an engineered plague designed to kill just her people. I also have a couple of short stories on the go and a “Hanna” novel to write for NaNoWriMo; Michael is insisting, nay, politely demanding it.

13. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

 
  • Read my books (buy them/borrow them/pledge for them) and review, review, review!
  • If you like shiny things and can afford to, please pledge to my Kickstarter. Want a book? Get it signed from me with the added kudos of instant membership of Team Parting. Come over to the fun side.
  • Tell your friends, tell everyone …
  • I mentioned the reviewing right?
  • Email/tweet me; I might be an introvert but I do like communicating with my readers.
  • I wholeheartedly endorse fan fiction. Go nuts.

14. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
 
  • Write. Finish. Edit. Publish. Repeat.
  • Indie publishing done well is just as validating as being traditionally published. I stole most of my team from Hugh Howey so if that doesn’t prove you can self-publish and do it as well as if you have an advance, except you get to keep control. I’m a proud member of the Michael Bunker School of Indie Publishing and I will go that extra mile if it means my books are just as nice to own as they are to read.
  • You get what you pay for in life; make sure you get a good editor or use people on another person’s recommendation (see the sidebar on my website to see my Indie Toolkit). Unless (and even if) you have a background in publishing/editing/journalism/writing, no one can edit their own work unless they wait a year. Get an editor, pay them well and it will serve you better than my guide dog does as my eyes.
  • A publisher doesn’t mean success, hell it doesn’t even mean an advance these days. Also: You don’t have to sign a boilerplate contract and it doesn’t matter how ‘nice’ people are, most people want to use you. If you go with the traditional route, think it though. Kameron Hurley has some excellent blog posts but I recommend this one.
  • Sometimes it’s quality over quantity.
  • Write. Finish. Edit. Publish. Repeat.

15. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Write. Finish. Edit. Publish. Repeat.
No seriously,  thanks for having me and I can’t wait to see what you think of Changing.

16. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

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Jeiana sat on the bank, her wet hair plastered to her face, crying softly. Her dress was soaked through and showed every curve of her body. She was scared. She was exposed and not quite sure of what happened; the disembodied seldom were, and even death-shock took them time to comprehend. Especially if it was a violent passing.
The River wasn’t real, but it was how the people of this world saw the transition to the ever-after. They said you passed over a river of stars—their name for galaxy spiraling across the heavens—and that the Lady and Lord of the River, Jaisenthia and her consort, the unnamed Ferryman, would transport you to the place where you would go. Other worlds, other cultures, had different ideas on the transition: some said there was a white light, or a weighing scales to measure your heart. For the people of this world, the illusion was much simpler and so much more beautiful.
The River glittered as if stars floated in the water, and the boat rocked gently, already filled with people. In theory the boat was a construct. It could hold as many as needed and each would be alone, or surrounded by their nearest and dearest who died with them. Candle-boats and lilies floated on the water, and in the sky were billions of stars floating in coloured, nebular gas.
Lukai and Marthus stepped onto the boat. Lukai went first, but his father stopped and turned, reaching out to her. “Jeia?”
“I’m scared.”
Jeiana found her eyes focusing on the Lord of the River, the Ferryman. He stood on the other boat, long silver hair hanging between his shoulders in a half-braid. He wore a long black cloak, but his face was kind, and his grey eyes held resolve. He had long ago come to terms with his role as psychopomp, as a guide for the souls of the dead, and he knew the choice was hers to make. Not that there was a choice, not really, but the illusion was needful. Jeiana was drowning, her body broken and battered. Nothing and no one could survive that.
Jaisenthia stood at the prow of her boat. She leant over and gently touched her consort’s arm. “It’s time.”
“I thought it might be,” he replied, glancing at her. A worried look passed over his face. “You’re sure you want to do this?”
“No. The idea terrifies me; but if they can do it, life after life, age after age, what excuse do we have?”
He said softly to her, “Be safe.”
“I will try. Come for me when I’m done?”
“Always and forever. Though I’ll be sure to check in on you now and again.”
A light laugh broke the stillness in the boat. Jaisenthia was still standing at the prow but she was also moving the boat, passing the dead souls waiting for them to go. For them it was a simple thing, as easy as reading and eating at the same time, but every soul on the boat stilled, regardless.
As she passed Lukai, she touched his shoulder gently and reassured the boy. “It will be alright, Lukai. Go and sit while I speak with your mother.”
Marthus saw the Lady of the River and bowed his head in reverence or fear. The two emotions mingled as they always did, no mortal could really understand what these beings were, their purpose or their origins.
To mortals, they were gods and though every atom of Jaisenthia’s essence hated that idea, she was resigned to it. Gods were beings mortals could understand. What she was, well it may as well be godhood for all it would mean to the star-kissed sons and daughters of a world that would one day be Coronis. They were so young and so, for now, that reverence was only to be expected. They would grow up soon enough and lose their innocence as well.
“Be seated, Marthus, with your son. Jeiana will join you in a minute.”
“As you wish, my Lady.”
Jaisenthia sat on the bank, beside the weeping woman. She lowered her hood, revealing her raven black hair, white skin, and eyes the colour sea foam. “Jeiana, it’s all right. It’s over, let go.”
“I can’t…” she moaned, shaking.
Jaisenthia knew Jeiana was not totally dead. She had moments left before her body succumbed to the water in her lungs, before her brain sparked out, and that was why she was still sitting on the bank. She was clinging onto what life she had left, but the grains of sand in her hand were slowly falling through her fingers.
“The pain is over. In moments your body will fail.” The psychopomp’s voice was soothing and Jeiana’s sobbing slowly stopped. “Someone I care for asked me to do something, to walk on your world. I wanted to ask a favour of you. Go with your family, go and be at peace, the trauma will melt away and you can be happy. I want to walk in your body, in your skin, but I need your permission to do so.”
“If I’m dead surely that’s a moot point?”
“It’s the way of things. There are rules to follow.” The Lady of the River said apologetically. “My companion will look after you, as will the part of me which remains on my boat. We will see you safe, I promise.”
Jeiana looked past her to her son and her beloved. They were waiting for her, and she knew she had no choice. It was too late to argue. “All right.”
Jaisenthia bowed her head. “Thank you.”
The Lady of the River saw the woman onto the boat, and watched the souls vanish on the horizon until their image of their passing faded. The Ferryman’s eyes remained on her though, as Jaisenthia stepped into the water. Her clothes were soaked through, the weight dragging her down as she waded deeper and deeper.
She treaded the water of the River for a moment, looking up at the stars and preparing herself for the pain. There is always a distinct difference between knowing and feeling. The darkest agony would be like bliss compared to this. Then her head dipped below the water and she took a deep breath.
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Hugh Howey, Groot, and Nanozombies!

And what in the universe do those things have in common? No, Hugh is not a nanozombie (yet), but he IS a completely awesome author and homonid :)

First of all let me introduce you to Hugh Howey:

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Sorry, wrong pic.

That’s Saint Hugh of Self-Publishing.

Here he is:

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I haven’t met him in person (he’s still serving hard time in some galactic prison), but I hear tell of his greatness, his kindness, and his ability to regenerate limbs and grow into a tree-ball of love, or so I’ve heard.

I first discovered Hugh-Groot on youtube (say that 5x fast) almost 2 yrs ago when I was beginning to seriously consider writing as a career/dream. You can watch the video here on self publish vs big publish.

He talked about his book Wool that thrust him into the stars (and a galactic prison), and there was something about what he said, and how he said it that resonated with me. I later realized it was a genuine humanity that emanated from him, and also the fact that he wrote just for the love of it. Not for money, not for fame, purely for the joy of it and that he wanted to share something with others.

It took him many years and many books before he reached the stars, as is the case for most hopeful authors (like moi), and that’s probably exactly what drew me to this author. We all love the underdog. We all feel like the underdog. We all strive for what gives us joy and purpose, thus we all root for the Groot in ourselves and in others.

So I wrote, and I wrote, and I drank wine, and I wrote some more, and now I have achieved the sun (in my opinion)! A close star, but still a star. I have published a novel, a novella, a few cartoon books, and recently won a big sci-fi competition at Booktrack.com, and even more recently got picked up by Ravenswood/GMTA publishing!

Needless to say, my most used phrase as of late has been, “Holy Sh#t!!!”

But the thing that has given me the most inspiration, the deepest feeling of affirmation and motivation to continue pursuing my writing dreams, is a personal email I received from Hugh.

It wasn’t long, it wasn’t wordy, but it said exactly the right words.

“Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got real talent.”

Those were just a few of the words from the email, but they meant more to me than a thousand dollars, more than a publishing contract, more than I can convey in words.

And that is the mark of a true writer, and tree….thing: genuine humanity.

But, then again, he is a tree-ball of love.

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And now, for some shameless marketing for my sci-fi novel, Azimuth! :D

But only because if I was rich enough I’d spend it all on my friends and family and those in need, including tigers!

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Available here for pre-order – Only .99¢! Holy Sh#t!

Basically the theme song to Azimuth: Corazon De La Manzana by Human Experience

AZIMUTHCOVER

“Men have become the tools of their tools.” -Henry David Thoreau

Hundreds of years in the future humankind has perfected nanotechnology to such an extent that environmental disaster, poverty, illness, and even death seem to have been eradicated. However, in all their ingenuity, life has been prolonged but not conquered, and nanobots have become both the salvation and devastation of civilization.

The first mysterious nanocide wiped out more than half the world’s population, the second wiped out all but fifty-seven. Now only one man stands between humanity’s last hope, the Azimuth, a modern age Noah’s ark with the ability to resurrect everyone in its database, and those trying to destroy it. But he is not alone.

A horde of five thousand corpses reanimated by their nanobots are following him, and he doesn’t know why.

LOL! And this sums up why I chose a writing career…

I just had to share this because it was hilarious and spot on ;)

10714496_10152745511503764_7017873022986203636_oNot to say corporate jobs are “evil” or anything. Many people are quite happy with working at “Joe’s Roastery,” and power to them. But if you’re unhappy, or doing something just to worship the all mighty dollar, then maybe you should consider backpacking through Nepal. Remember….life is short! Only because nanobots haven’t been inserted into our bodies yet :/

Author, Illustrator, Unicorn Wrangler

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