Today I am excited to have part one of an interview with Freda Warrington to share with you. Freda Warrington is the author of nineteen novels, and for more information on her and her books you can visit her website or her blog. Her work was brought to my attention with the recent publication of her first two Aetherial Tales books, stand alone novels set in the same universe. The first of these, Elfland, was my favorite book read in 2010 (review), and I also enjoyed reading Midsummer Night (review). However, since Elfland was her first novel published in the United States, I didn’t know much about her or her other books so I asked her for an interview and she was kind enough to accept. I hope you have as much fun learning about her and her books as I did!
Fantasy Cafe: First of all, thank you for answering a few questions. Of course I’m particularly excited about the third Aetherial Tales novel. Is there yet a release date for Grail of the Summer Stars? Can you tell us anything about what it will be about, when it takes place in relation to the other two Aetherial Tales books, and if there will be any familiar faces?
Freda Warrington: Grail of the Summer Stars will be coming out in summer/ fall of 2012, as long as I’m not too late delivering the manuscript! I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s still a work in progress. However, I can reveal that it tells the story of Mistangamesh (Mist for short), a character who appeared briefly in Midsummer Night, and a new character, Stevie, who meets him and discovers that she, too, has a very peculiar past. Where Midsummer Night was set mostly in one place, Grail will have a broader scope location-wise, and a more epic feel. It’s a complete story in itself, but firmly connected to the first two books which I hope will please readers who enjoyed them. It will also complete an arc that’s been simmering in the background of the first two novels… that’s the plan, anyway, but we all know what can happen to plans!
As for familiar faces, see next question!
FC: Ok, I’m sorry, but I need to take a moment to ask some fangirl questions. I promise I’ll get right back on track once I get these out of my system! Are there more than just the three Aetherial Tales books planned? Is there any chance there will be more books with Rosie and Sam or possibly a book about the past of Rufus?
FW: Just the three books for the time being. I have ideas for another two at least – I don’t know yet if these will ever be written, but I hope so. In theory, an endless number of tales could be set in the Aetherial universe, because it’s completely elastic. It isn’t a place where there’s just One Big Quest and then it’s all over. Rather, it’s more of an imaginative landscape where all sorts of different characters, human and non-human, can play out their stories.
Funny you should ask about Sam and Rosie, and Rufus’s past – you’ll be pleased to hear that they all feature in Grail! Obviously in Midsummer Night, Rufus was very naughty and got away with a lot, so there is unfinished business between him and his brother, Mist. At some point I realised, too, that Sam, Rosie and Lucas have a part to play in the story. It’s not a huge part, but it is important. You won’t find the intense focus on them and their relationships that there was in Elfland, because this is not their story, but I hope that readers of Elfland will enjoy meeting them again and remembering what they went through in the past to bring them to this point.
FC: Why did you decide to set the first two Aetherial Tales books in modern times? If there are going to be more than the three books (as I so fervently hope!) will any of them take place in a historical setting or even be set entirely in the Otherworld?
FW: I’ve written contemporary fantasy before – The Rainbow Gate, Dark Cathedral – and I’ve always been captivated by the idea of our everyday world hiding mysterious layers. One of my initial ideas for Elfland was that every single household is like a separate universe – just entering someone else’s house is so like landing on another planet, an author almost doesn’t need to bother creating a supernatural Otherworld! Exploring this idea in Elfland, by showing a couple of very different households in conflict, naturally felt like it needed a modern setting. A timeless setting, should I say. Meanwhile, because the feel of the narrative was all about the contrast between the everyday and the fantastical, the characters wouldn’t have worked in a historical period. I liked them being able to swear at each other, or jump into cars, or get sent to prison, or be rushed to hospital like ordinary humans, while they’ve got all this secret, magical stuff going on underneath. Likewise, in Midsummer Night, it would have been difficult to make Juliana Flagg a highly acclaimed sculptor, or have her ex-husband being a government minister who swans about in a Lamborghini, if I’d set it in a much earlier time. There’s so much fun to be had from playing with modern-day settings. Grail has a couple of historical episodes – originally it was going to have more, but I decided this would make the story too complicated – so the narrative is naturally concerned with how the characters, in a modern human world, learn to live with the knowledge they have they’ve had these enormously extended, strange and traumatic lives over thousands of years.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t write an Aetherial tale set in the past, or entirely in the Otherworld. For example, there’s a section in Midsummer Night where one of the characters accuses Rufus of “abducting” a female relative of his from the Otherworld realm where she lived. She denies it, insisting she went with Rufus of her own free will. I’m thinking that this, or something similar, might be an interesting story to explore in more depth. Certainly I think Sam, Rosie and Lucas have more to say and do.
Incidentally, Elfland’s original title was All About Elfland, which was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, as it isn’t really about a traditional Elfland at all… but as my editor wanted to simplify the title, the irony got kind of lost.
FC: Many of us living in the United States have only recently discovered your books with the publication of Elfland and Midsummer Night. Which books in your backlist do you think would be a good starting point for new fans who have discovered the Aetherial Tales books but are unfamiliar with your other books? I particularly enjoyed how these novels were somewhat dark and character driven. Are your other books similar?
FW: I believe they are in many ways. Although they might have very different settings and themes, they all originate from the same imaginative landscape in my head! So yes, they do all tend to be “dark and character driven.” The Rainbow Gate and Dark Cathedral are probably the most similar, in that they too have contemporary settings into which supernatural elements and fantastical events intrude. The Jewelfire Trilogy (The Amber Citadel, The Sapphire Throne, The Obsidian Tower), although set in an alternative world, have a similar character-centered, contemporary feel. The Court of the Midnight King is a bit different, as it’s an alternative history version of the story of King Richard III (Shakespeare’s famous “villain”!) and I’ve written vampire novels too, including A Taste of Blood Wine and Dracula the Undead (the latter being a sequel to Dracula).
I still get a lot of requests for the Blood Wine vampire series, copies of which are hard to find, although I hope they will be republished eventually. Unfortunately, many of my books are out of print, but you can get most of them online. Some have been reissued, including Dracula the Undead (Severn House), and my earliest novels – which are weird, dark, sword-and-sorcery tales – have been republished by Immanion Press as A Blackbird in Silver Darkness and A Blackbird in Amber Twilight, so these are easy to obtain. I have lots of Dark Cathedral, too.
If you go to my website, www.fredawarrington.com, you can find a complete list of my work and email me about it.
FC: As I have only recently discovered your books, I haven’t had a chance to read the Jewelfire trilogy yet. I noticed the description mentioned a race called “Aelyr.” Are they at all connected to the Aelyr from the Aetherial Tales?
FW: Aha! You spotted that! Yes – I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of beings who look human but aren’t: for example elves, vampires, angels, demons, demi-gods and so on. My Aetherials, or Aelyr, are simply my own version of such a race. When I was writing the Jewelfire trilogy, it was conceived to be a traditional-style high fantasy, with a twist. The Aelyr appeared as my version of an elf-type race… beautiful, mysterious and fascinating to humans, but rather more sexy and less noble-minded than Tolkien’s Elves! When I started Elfland, although it’s a very different book, it made perfect sense to me that my non-human race would be part of the same other-race that I’d used in The Amber Citadel trilogy. Well, I see them as “cousins” who live in slightly different dimensions of the Otherworld, with different mythologies and different approaches to life – but basically, the same race.
I love the idea of making these connections between my novels, acknowledging that although they are separate stories, they are connected because they all emerge from the same inner landscape. It’s saying, the human imagination IS the Otherworld. I’ve played with other connections too – for example, it’s hinted that Peta Lyon, in Midsummer Night, might know the characters from Dark Cathedral. And in Grail of the Summer Stars I have a minor character, Fin, who appeared in The Court of the Midnight King. Small things like that. It’s fun, but I’m keeping it subtle and in the background, so if the reader misses it, it doesn’t matter, but if they pick it up and think, “Aha!”, that’s fine too.
FC: You mentioned on your blog that you do not want to write trilogies anymore, only stand alone books. What made you decide you didn’t want to write longer, closely connected stories?
FW: Speaking in general terms, and not about any specific publisher, she hurriedly points out – what tends to happen is that when Book One comes out, the publisher makes a big publicity splash and it sells lots of copies. There will probably be less fuss over Book Two so it doesn’t sell as well. By the time Book Three comes out, the publisher has lost interest and also slashed their marketing budget. Then the reader may find Book Three on the bookshop shelf – but because Books One and Two are no longer there, and may even be out of print, they won’t buy it. I think trilogies or series only work if you become a massive seller like JK Rowling or Robert Jordan. That’s why I wanted to go for stand-alone novels. I’ve heard other authors say they’re doing the same. Although, as I said above, my Aetherial Tales are connected (and probably more than I meant them to be!) they can each be enjoyed separately.
Part two will be posted tomorrow. I had a lot of questions, and even after cutting them back, the interview ended up rather long – especially since I asked a few more questions after reading the answers. The next part will mainly be focused on general topics such as realistic female characters in fiction and the appeal of young adult novels. I hope that you enjoyed the first part and will be back to read part two tomorrow!
Updated 2/13: Now that the rest of the interview has been posted, read the rest here.