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Grace Draven - Interview

Hello Grace, I’m so glad and excited you actually accepted to answer my questions. I really enjoyed and loved deeply your novels. Master of Crows was my first and I was stunned by your work, your imagination and style. I’ve never read such a book, I was actually mesmerised. It was a challenge for me english wise, but I was very proud of myself when I reached the end and understand the entire story!!
So….I guess it’s time to start our conversation!!!

Ladies, today is my pleasure to introduce to you Grace Draven, an amazing writer and the author of Master of Crows, the book of hers we talk about in this interview. Grace, do you like to present yourself for italian readers that still don’t know you?

Hi, everyone!  First, I want to thank Federica for letting me take the stage and talk a little about  myself and my books.  Hopefully, I won’t bore you with my answers. 

I’m Grace Draven.  I’m married, with 3 kids and a dog.  I live in Houston, Texas where summer last ten months out of the year, and winter can be counted in days instead of months. 

I’ve lived in Spain, honeymooned in Scotland, ridden in competition rodeo and earned my undergraduate degree in Russian Studies.  I can speak and read Spanish with some skill, can only ready Russian these days (not too many Russian speakers to practice with here in Houston) and love to cook.

My great great paternal grandfather was Jose Santos Zelaya, former president/dictator of Nicaragua.  My maternal grandmother was a little Cajun woman born and raised in southern Louisiana whose mother tongue was Cajun French and English her second language.  Unfortunately, I don’t speak a word of French, standard or Cajun. 

I have a big family made up of full brothers and sisters, half sisters, and stepbrothers and stepsisters.  Holiday dinners are often loud, crowded, boisterous affairs in which there are a few fights, a few leftovers and not a drop of wine left in the house.

I’m very intrigued by the cover of this book. I read the designer Louisa Gallie projected it. How did the process of creation start? Did you two shared specific information or you already have an idea for it? I think Silhara, the male character, is represented perfectly by it.

Louisa and I used a two-tiered approach.  She’s the artist, so I trusted her to know what artistic elements would be most visually pleasing to the reader.  I approached it from a marketing standpoint—what would capture a brower’s interest in less than three seconds and move the product fastest.  So the two of us had to meet in the middle somewhere.

Romance novels are often “branded” by what’s known as the clinch pose (man and woman embracing).  There are variations of the clinch pose and several degrees of nudity shown, depending on whether or not you’re writing a romance with no or only a few intimate scenes or if you’re writing something racier, such as an erotic romance. 

Because I was writing a fantasy romance, Louisa had to either include fantasy elements or an overall fantasy “feel” to her illustration.  She did a brilliant job by putting in the stylistic element of crows flying out of the male character’s hair and giving the background a very ethereal look.  She also kept the cover from being too static by making the bright red cloak splash against a backdrop of browns, grays and blues as well as to make the hair and cloak look caught in the wind.  Movement in an illustration is very important.

Her idea of having the male character cup the back of the female character’s head, and have her hand threading his hair through her fingers was beautifully inspired and really captured the romantic element of the story.

Magic. The principal element of your books. Where do you find inspiration of it? I mean names of places or the plot itself, which is rich of magical details. I noticed you loved magical and gothic stuff, what does it mean in your life?

I used to be a very avid Dungeons and Dragons player when I was in college and learned a lot about magic and the rules for using it from my brother who was often our dungeon master.  It’s why I follow the philosophy that magic isn’t free.  There’s always a cost in energy or strength. 

As for the inspiration part—I get inspiration from everyday life and from doing a lot of people-watching.  Our world is saturated with magic; you just have to know how to look for it.  :)

How does the Master of Crows’s story formed in your head? 

It’s the only story I’ve written that blossomed in my head one night, fully formed and plotted.  I knew Silhara inside and out before I wrote down the first word of his characterization, and the world was vivid and living in my mind’s eye.  Martise took a little more time, and the plot had a few tweaks as I wrote the book, but the story itself was almost completely fleshed out in my head by the time I sat down to write it.  I haven’t had such a gift with a book since then.

What do oranges mean to Silhara? and why does he eat them if he can’t stand the taste? I hope not to spoil anything but it’s something I have still doubts of comprehension.

This will be spoiler for any who haven’t read MoC yet.  As a child, Silhara stole an orange and was almost executed for it via public strangulation.  Since then, the orange represents the most horrific experience of his life.  With that kind of emotional association, he finds the taste of oranges revolting.  However, they also represent a challenge to him.  He feels if he eats them, despite how badly they taste to him, that terrible memory will not have a hold on him, and one day he can release it altogether if he actually grows to like the taste of oranges.   

I read about your intention of writing a sequel...wow, I can’t believe it!!! Can you tell us something about it please?

The sequel is slated to be a short story, but I’m actually much better at writing longer novella-length or novel-length works, so it may well end up being a full novel-length tale by the time I’m done.  :)  It’s titled THE BRUSH OF BLACK WINGS and starts with a kidnapping. 

I don’t want to reveal too much as it’s still a work in progress, but Silhara and Martise are the major players, and the villain of this story will appear in a later work.

Your writing style is amazing and very different from commercial novels. How did it developed during your writing career ?

Mostly just practice and trying to find my voice.  Every author has a unique signature voice that may have similarities to other authors, but the nuances are different based on how the author hears and sees the story in their head.  Even though I’ve never read any of her work, my style is often compared to the fantasy and urban fantasy writer Patricia Briggs.

What really amaze me, among other things, are your descriptions. They are so rich of details, I get the impression to see the places and people you write about. How does it work? I mean, is it all in your head or do you follow a picture?

Mostly in my head.  I’m what is called an auditory learner.  Sounds, more than pictures, fire off ideas and images for me.  While I don’t listen to music while I write, I do listen to it before I sit down to write.  It helps me create and solidify images and scenes in my head.

I really love how you portrait women in your books, love stories are not conventional or, we could say commercial : male characters fall in love with women not only because of exterior features but for inner qualities and merits of temper. Can you tell something about Silhara and Martise unique love story  ?

I usually operate on the idea that physical beauty fades with time.  So to give my characters a happily ever after that I find convincing, I need them to fall in love with each other’s personality and intelligence.  If you start with that premise, then the person whose character you fell in love with grows more beautiful with familiarty.

How much is it difficult to be an indie author in the U.S.A. nowadays?

It’s actually quite easy, in my opinion.  I do have to act as both publisher and author, but what tasks I can’t learn and do on my own, I can outsource to someone else for what’s usually a flat, reasonable fee—such as editorial and cover art.  The best thing is I retain my distribution rights—a very important aspect of the publishing process these days.

Social networks, book signing events, are you social with your fans? Are you comfortable in receiving such warm affections ?

I think I’m very social with readers and enjoy interacting with them. It’s a compliment to me that they’re interested not only in my books but in me as a person (though I’m quite boring frankly).  I’m not bothered by large crowds, heavy social interaction or even public speaking.  I can do all three without a problem.  After talking to fellow authors who are often terrified of one, two or all three of those things, I realize I’m very lucky in that regard.

Can you tell us something about your decision to be a writer? how did everything begin ?

I’ve been writing fiction since 2003 when I took up fanfiction writing as a hobby and a way to decompress from a high-stress job in financial reporting and the challenges of motherhood.  At the time I started writing, I had two little kids, both under the age of four and was pregnant with my third child.  Writing was something I enjoyed when the house was quiet and I had a few minutes to myself.

I’ve always loved the antihero/bad boy of fiction; I also love romance and fantasy and have read both genres since I was twelve years old.  As such, my first fanfictions were in the fantasy universes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  I branched into Labyrinth after that.  I gave romantic lead parts to Severus Snape, Grima Wormtongue and Jareth the Goblin King.  All great fun, and writing fanfiction gave me the practice I needed to attempt original fiction.

I entered and won a contest presented by the publisher Amber Quill Press in 2005.  My entry was a twelve-thousand word fantasy romance titled The King of Hel.  It was the first book to start me on the road to publishing fantasy romance.  I started drafting the first few chapters of Master of Crows later that same year.

Is it correct to label your books as fantasy romance? I always feel some medieval vibe…is there some historical feature?

I would definitely label them fantasy romance.  I use a medieval-esque foundation for my stories because they inevitable take place in a pre-industrial society. 

Will ever be possible to see you publishing some contemporary story in a contemporary contest?

I haven’t entered any contests since the first one that got me published.  I do have a short story contemporary currently out on Amazon titled REMEMBER WHEN.  I published it under the pen name Annabeth DenBoer.  I also have a contemporary novella titled COURTING BATHSHEBA.  That one is currently contracted with my old publisher Amber Quill Press.  It’s not available on Amazon but can be found on the Amber Quill website at:  http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/529-Courting-Bathsheba.aspx

Thank you so much for giving me your free time, it’s such an honor!!!

It was my pleasure!  Thanks for interviewing me!

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