Interview with Autumn M. Brit

51w0Olv36sL._UX250_This week, I got to delve into the wonderful mind of Autumn M. Brit. She’s one of the many delightful indie authors I’ve discovered since embarking into the world of self-publishingShe has two series under he belt, a Fantasy series called ‘Rise of the Fifth Order’ (a wonderful series) and a dystopian future series Friends of My Enemy (on my TBR list).

First, let’s get to know Autumn with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I’m a practical girl so the first two books would be one on botany and the use of any and all plants found on the island. I want to know what can be used to make fiber like linen and rope strength as much as poisonous or not! The second book would be Wilderness First Aid. You know, just in case!

But the last book… that is a tough one. My first thought was the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, but I think I’d like a book I hadn’t read. If I can stretch the rules a bit, I’d love to the a compilation of all books in the Guin Saga. It looks so fascinating! I love heroic fantasy and at 130 books … well to have time to finish it I’d have to be stuck on a deserted island. Hopefully by the time I reached the end I’d have been rescued … or made myself a sailboat. 😉

How thick would a 130 book anthology be? Well, it would definitely keep you busy!

What animal best describes your personality?

If I can choose any animal: dragon. Totally a dragon. BUT my husband likes to limit me to ‘real’ creatures. sigh. In that case, my totem is an owl. And that really does suit me. I tend to be quiet and observe. And owls (like dragons) have no major predators and are amazing hunters. I like that they are a traditional magical creature too, being a night hunter. It grants them the mythos of being able to fly between the spirit world and our world, which is probably why they are often selected as familiars for wizards and witches. An owl is also the symbol of the goddess Athena and her Roman incarnation Diana. Can’t go wrong when you choose something representing the goddess of war and wisdom!

What do you mean dragons aren’t real? Next, you’ll say there aren’t elves!

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

This one is hard because I love to travel and there are so many places I want to go. In the last year I crossed off two of the top journeys on my list: hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu and Alaska. I really want to go to Iceland, preferably in the winter where I can soak in a hot spring and watch amazing auroras. And I’d really love to see a good meteor shower anchored in a sheltered lagoon off a sand spit of an island one day. Somewhere you can watch stars fall all the way to the horizon. And I’d love to hike a really long trek. The AT would be nice of even the PCT, but there are some really cool journeys in Nepal and Mongolia that are less well known and would be incredible. So this didn’t really answer your question, because I’m not sure I can choose between those three. I’m thinking I’ll make my way to Iceland first, but you never know!

Soaking in a hot spring and watching nature’s beauty painted across the sky! Nice!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Well when I was younger, I had cats. But my family also had one dog throughout my childhood. I wanted a dog as a hiking companion when I was in college, but of course couldn’t sneak one into my dorm. So when I met the man who became my husband and then met his Cairn Terrier … well I just knew I’d do anything to be with that dog! So as an adult, I’m a dog person.

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

I love history and so this one took some thought. There are so many interesting people who have lived! Buddha would be awesome. Or Confuscious? Hmm … As a final decision though, I’m going to say Sappho. I admire her poetry, or at least the few fragments we have remaining of it. What has endured is her amazing legend as one of the most famous poets of antiquity. So I’d love to hear more of her poetry – from her! – and about her life. Can you imagine learning what legends she holds of what the world was like before 600 BCE? And really, how could you not want to meet the poet who wrote:

Although they are
only breath, words
which I command
are immortal

What a great quote! I see why you like her.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Living! That may seem like a tossed off answer, but I’m serious. I love life and the adventure/journey of it. I’m never bored and even on the horrid days I know there will be a balance of amazing ones. I joke that even if I had a thousand years, life would be too short. I want to fill it with so much and get frustrated by the limitations of body (which thankfully isn’t so bad at the moment!) and money/society. Why on earth do I have to earn a living? I want to see sunrises all over the world, taste food from every culture, and share a smile with strangers. I want to write amazing tales that inspire others to do the same. I want days with my family to really enjoy being with them. Everything always feels so rushed, because we don’t have a thousand years and we do have to earn a living, and you end up missing some of the best moments running to the next thing. I guess that I’m passionate about smelling the flowers on the way.

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

Because I can’t draw the ideas I see in my head. But I can write them pretty well. Honestly I was on track to be an artist and even have my BA in Studio Art – but it is also in English. I’ve picked away at writing while in high school and college, but didn’t get serious until I was 35 when I realized I got a lot more enjoyment out of writing than I did drawing. And then I stumbled into the epublishing aspect and that gave me an outlet (selling artwork is not that easy!).

I love the challenge of writing. Crafting a comprehensive story is only the first part. I get into subtleties such a hidden clues in chapter headings to word choice based on a character POV. Writing, and by that I mean everything from creating a story, writing it, and editing it to high polish, stimulates my brain like nothing else. I write first for me, because I love trying to write the best story I can and because I love delving so deeply into the characters and plots of what might have only been a ten minute daydream. When I hear back that someone loved it to, or picked up on a tiny clue buried in the prose … oh it is so awesome!

I know what you mean. I was speaking to a beta reader on my second fantasy novel, and was thrilled when she made noticed foreshadowing I planted!

 

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I’ve tried both ways. I wrote Born of Water with a very general idea that could have been summed up in three sentences. And I immediately got lost and bogged down. So then I rewrote it with a pretty detailed map. But spending months working on an outline to then write it for real is a VERY slow process. And I like the writing part. And I don’t have a lot of writing time.

So now I’m a bit of a hybrid. I have a pretty clear idea of major events in a novel and know how it will end (usually – I’ve had characters make decisions that created a whole new book, but that is another story. The VERY end of that one did resolve how I expected. Sort of.), but I have no idea what is going to happen in each chapter when I sit down to write. Instead, I keep things flowing and guide my pace for tension and action by doing quick sentences under at least the next three chapters, though sometimes I’ll have half the book mapped out with quick notes including POV, major point/action of chapter, and how it should end. As I write and edit, I’ll keep side notes of things that feel off or need to be added in. I’d almost call my writing method layering. I write out the main story, add in subplots and other details missed, make sure timelines match up and that clues for later actions are there, and then work on word use. I’m not sure it is the system I’ll always stick to. If I were a full time writer and not trying to maximize the bit of time I get each day to write, I might develop a whole new system! But this seems to work to keep the idea flowing while it is fresh and then adding critical depth when I’m in a more editorial mode.

Your trilogy Rise of the Fifth Order are imaginative fantasy. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?

Because that is what I read when I was a teenager! I wouldn’t say I set out to write epic fantasy as my first book or even really thought about it while I wrote the Rise of the Fifth Order. I was really writing a story that would be one I would have loved to have read. Only when I was done to I realize that I needed to pick a genre and really got into the nitty gritty of what types of fantasy are out there. After I dipped my toe in the self-publishing world, I realized that having an idea of what beast I’m planning on writing is nice to know before I get going, even if it is a mishmash of several genres. The beauty of the indie publishing world is that you can have space dragons eating zombies if you’d like. I haven’t gone quite that crazy yet, but I keep trying to write stories I love. And my first reading love was epic fantasy. 🙂

I have a feeling, “Because that is what I read when I was a teenager!” is at the root of most Fantasy and other Speculative Fiction authors choice on subjects.

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Rise of the Fifth Order come from?

The idea stemmed from the combination of two random ideas oddly enough. I had this story idea that was going no where in my head of an executive who was a dryad (could turn into plants, specifically a potted on in her office) at a conference and sees a young woman like herself, which is rare. But that is as far as the idea had grown before wilting. It just went nowhere. And at the same time there was this massive painting of a Mediterranean village  in the bathroom at my office. One day wondering what life was like in that painting combined with a woman with elemental powers who sees a young girl like herself, but different and Born of Water started to grow.

The rest of the story is more difficult to explain. I finished Born of Water knowing the story didn’t end, but not knowing where it went. That is a mistake I avoid now when I right a series! I finish the whole thing first because there are definitely things I’d tweak in Born of Water to set up everything for book 2 and 3 better. But I didn’t have this first series planned and when I sat down writing Rule of Fire I only had a vague idea everyone had to go back to Lus na Sithchaine. Except they got into a fight on the Steppes and then ran into Tam again and Ria decides to leave with Zhao, and of course the whole point of the story is finding out who this man who used to be the Curse is… Rule of Fire is the first book where I really let the characters lead the way. They sorted out what was going on and when writing fell off, it was usually because I had a plot hole I had to solve before I could continue. That is how I realized what Elantha’s price for sending Sinika to Minna really was: it was a plot hole that needed answering. I knew Sinika would go after the Kith because that was an unresolved conflict from the previous war. The Church of Four Orders would never let their only defeat last. And I knew that balancing the spheres would be important but not be the whole solution, just bring about the resolution. Rule of Fire and Spirit of Life flowed into each other really well and that is how I want to write series from now on! But I can only say the inspiration for the second two books came from the characters reacting to what had happened in the first book and Born of Water came from a very strange place.

What is your favorite character from the Rise of the Fifth Order?

Am I allowed to choose? I feel like a parent and you shouldn’t have a favorite. 🙂

I think I relate to Darag the best. He could be represented by an owl too! I do like Niri and her voice flows naturally for me. Khodan, Ty, and Zhao are harder for me to get into their heads, but when I do it snaps into focus and I can write their voice quite well. Ria in Born of Water was nearly impossible for me to write. I wasn’t very fond of her and thought about chucking her off the boat. But since the whole point of the story was saving her life, I couldn’t let the Curse eat her. And I’m glad I didn’t as I really like who she becomes in Rule of Fire and love writing her (and Zhao’s!) perspective as the different creatures they become (the dragon scene was the easiest one for me to do – I really should be a dragon). Sinika was always a challenge because he didn’t let me in on his thoughts. He outwitted me even as I wrote and I seriously worried he’d win. He still might. I’m working on a new series… And I totally skipped Lavinia, who is a very good character but easy to overlook at times.

I often joke that my favorite character is the one whose voice I’m writing in at the time, because I see the world through their perspective and want to relate it the best I can. I think I’ll leave my answer at that.

I understand you’re writing a sequel series to Rise of the Fifth Order. Could you tell us something about it?

I did just hint at that, didn’t I? lol. Yes, I’m writing a new trilogy called Games of Fire that begins six months after Spirit of Life ends.

I really thought I was done with the characters and world of Myrrah when I finished Spirit of Life. I was working on my near future dystopian series Friends of my Enemy and was quite in love with the characters and story line despite no magic! But the characters from the Rise of the Fifth Order kept popping in my head. And with good reason. They might win, but not necessarily in the best circumstances for everyone.

Darag, Laireag, and Zhao are hurting from the death of Beite. The forest is in tatters. Sinika is being held prisoner in the same Temple housing the Sphere of Fire, Ria is trying to create a new affiliation out of the Church of Four Orders to include Spirit Elementals, which of course isn’t going to be easy. There is a lot going on right there, but it wasn’t a story and certainly not a trilogy, so I tried to ignore the voices in my head – at least theirs as they were making it hard to write about a non-magical near future war. I eventually had to confront them and demand they tell me a good story or shut up. Oh and they did. I think I totally missed the point of their world or what they started with the events in the Rise of the Fifth Order!

So yes, the story does start up again based on those little problems listed above. But it is really so much more, a deeper thread that goes all the way back to the beginning of the world of Myrrah and the first war. The spheres are just a part of it. Little clues that I didn’t even know I’d put into the Rise of the Fifth Order become incredibly important in Games of Fire.

Book 1, Spark of Defiance, is written. I’m starting book 2, the Fire of the Spheres and hope to finish that his fall. Book 3, as yet unnamed, will hopefully be written in the early winter while I edit book 1. I hope to release all three in 2016 with the first in the spring.

Well, I can’t wait until 2016!

What do you find most challenging about being a self-published author?

Finding the time for everything. I love, love, love to write. And I actually really like editing too. And I like to read and the marketing isn’t too bad. But I’d like to be more social on social media. And I’m taking a marketing course, but I haven’t found the time to implement some of the suggestions. I feel like I’m holding myself back because there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I have side projects like working on a non-fiction book on tips to writing better fantasy. And I want to offer author services like covers or character sketches or even CreateSpace formatting (which I oddly like doing now that I’ve finally learned how!). But ack, time! My 1 to 1 ½ hours of writing time a night has been squeezed to death and something has to give at some point soon. Thankfully winter is coming and I can curl up next to the woodstove and not feel so pulled to also want to spend time with family, hike, kayak, camp, motorcycle, etc. If I can figure out the bills and marketing, I’m going to try to become a full time writer or at least shift into a part time job. That is my goal and the only thing that makes the complete insanity of everything I’ve got going on right now seem worthwhile. Heck, this fall will also see the launch of Born of Water as an audio book with a really awesome narrator Jerry Villegas. Hearing something you’ve written spoken by someone with an amazing voice and who is great a catching nuances is an experience every authors should have! But thank goodness most of the work is on his plate, because I would never be able to fit it in if I were the lead!

Being a self-published author and taking it seriously as a career often means you are running a full time writing/publishing job while working a full time job and juggling a family and life. It is hard. Things are going well enough that I am hoping to move more towards writing as my main career, but while I’m making that switch and getting all those pieces in place, it is really stressful to keep up with everything. And that kinda sucks.

That is amazing advice!

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

Three things: Take yourself and your work seriously, write more than one book, and if you are going to write a series write the whole thing first and then launch the books three to four months apart.

What I mean with take yourself seriously is to treat yourself like a serious author from day one, and that, I hope, means providing quality. Get your work edited. Get a good cover. Work on your novel until it shines. Don’t throw a story up on Amazon and expect people to flock to it and love it and you’ll be rich and famous. That rarely happens and the best chance of it occurring is if the packaging looks great and the product is unbelievably awesome. I totally thing being a self published author is worth all the effort, but it does take effort.

And the advice about writing more than one book is simple: you get so much better with each novel you write. Whether or not you publish them, keep writing. Your prose will get better, how you tell a story will get better. Reading is great, you can learn from that, but there is nothing better than practice. Practice writing a lot!

And the last advice on launching a series of books back to back is because it is the best way to build a fan base. In today’s day and age, no one wants to wait more than a year for the next novel. I saw my sales jump when the Rise of the Fifth Order series ended because all the books were available. People who love epic fantasy love to read and most people go through all three books in less than a week. It took me more than three years to write. That just doesn’t work out well. So if you want writing to be more than a hobby, if you want a career, get all those books lined up, edited, and ready to go and launch them all within a few months. Heck, put book 2 and 3 out on pre-order at the same time you release book 1 if you can. Let people know you are serious about being an author and providing a complete tale that will rivet them.

And I guess one last piece of advice that goes along with that: if you want to make this a career, keep a writing schedule or writing goals. You should write or edit every day, even the lack of inspiration days when the writing feels horrible. Work isn’t always fun, but writing is more often than not thankfully. But if you want to have fans you have to commit to creating fresh material every year. So get writing!

Now that we’ve gotten to know the amazing Autumn Brit, you can find out more information about her amazing books!

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Autumn is a best selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all on the same series though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy will be released in full in 2015 and will be quite the story full of strong characters, tight plots, and lots of action. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release the first book in 2015 too.

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

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