When Kale mac Tadhg is betrayed by his lord’s men, he is sent on an impossible quest: to slay a witch in a tower, and end a people’s curse. Both Kale’s best friend Aaron Smithson and former betrothed Aoife of Westgate set out to rescue him, but their journey takes them into the uncharted waters and Nordic colonies, to a land cursed and all but forgotten as they begin to realize that there is some truth to old legends. Kale’s rescue comes at a price – for by the time Aaron and Aoife know where to search, like so many before him, Kale becomes bound to the ancient tower’s fate.
Welcome to Phantasmic Reads, L.T.! I appreciate you stopping by today to answer some questions!
Tell us a bit about yourself (something that's not in your bio):
Alright – I’m never very good with this sort of stuff, but in essence I’m a fantasy writer named after a Star Wars character (really). I like the films, but don’t ask me any trivia, I will disappoint. I like dogs, like to dabble with drawing, and Tower of Obsidian is the seventh novel I wrote, and the first one that got accepted by a publisher (the first publisher who got to look at it, at that!)
What's it like being a paramedic? Scary? Exhilarating?
When I first started, I was petrified – excited, but scared of doing anything wrong. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I guess that’s to be expected when you’re just starting out. I’ve settled into the job now and I got a pretty level head in hairy situations, so I guess the short answer is that the honeymoon is over – I love my job because I wanted to do something with my life that was beneficial to people, so the biggest high I get out of it is at the end of the day, knowing I’ve helped someone.
How long have you been scuba diving?
I got my certification ten years ago. I honestly haven’t done as much scuba as I wanted to in the last few years – I’m planning a vacation soon though. It took longer then expected to go through school and get a job with disposable income!
What's the coolest/most interesting thing you've seen while diving?
There’s a ton of lakes around here, but they’re for the most part muddy and there’s not a lot to see – I am planning a vacation to somewhere a little more scenic though. I guess the short answer would be an old toilet, but the diving instructors did that intentionally for the dive teams to landmark.
Do you have an interesting writing quirk? What is it?
I don’t know if it’s a quirk, but I like to listen to music when I write – mostly instrumental music. I usually put on a mix from videogames and movie soundtracks from youtube, but I’m one of those people who purchase ‘epic soundtracks’ from itunes.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I’m pretty flexible as to when and where I write – I have no set schedule, I just have a general plan of ‘get it done’. In terms of preferences though – I like it when I can wake up, do a workout and then bang off a scene or two over tea. I’m also one of those writers who are constantly getting up and stretching. I work quick, then go recharge.
Do you have any pet peeves? If so, what are they?
I think this is pretty normal – I don’t like it when people try to exert power over other people – usually this is in the public service industry, but I used to be a waitress, so I get annoyed really quickly when someone’s being rude to someone who can’t really fight back. One of the nice things about my job is that I’m expected to be assertive, so people I know are more accepting of me speaking up now.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Bookstores. And puppies.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I can, I like to sneak away and go hiking – I love being outdoors in nice weather and I prefer being at an outdoor beach or pool then one inside. I usually stick to a workout regime for a minimum of an hour a day, but if I can bike or walk usually I will.
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
I wouldn’t say unique – I like to draw and paint, but I never seem to have enough time to really get good at either. I keep saying I’m going to take up windsurfing, but it’s one of those hobbies that I’m probably going to need a bigger vehicle to lug my board around. Soon, I hope!
Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover? Why?
Even though I really like reading off my kobo, my preference is still paperbacks. The kobo is great because I’m going to need more shelves for books soon. Hopefully I’ll save up for a down payment on a house in the next year, so I can build a formal library, but I’m still in transition.
What are you currently reading, or what did you recently finish?
Right now I’m reading Neuromancer by William Gibson.
Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
When the pager goes off, I’m a person who doesn’t get to see their bed. Seriously though – I usually wake up with more then enough time to make and enjoy breakfast in the morning, so unless we get sent out, my bed’s made.
What are three things you never leave the house without?
Keys, driver’s license, and a sketchpad with pencil.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
It’s mostly imagination. I was kind of in a depressed place when I came up with the premise of the plot and I was addressing some real issues, but I can’t say there’s a smidgeon of autobiography in there. I was heavily influenced by mythology, though.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Only picking one – Niyati. Unlike a lot of contemporary fantasy writers, I’ve got more of a black and white world view, so writing a neutral character was a nice change for me. When I was crafting the world, one of my rules in writing Tower of Obsidian was that I was trying to write a story where I would write about strong female characters without resorting to turning any of them into warriors – but when I got to the tower I knew I had to make one. I don’t know if I can talk about her much without spoiling the story, so I’ll leave it at that.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
This is probably going to surprise a lot of people, but Kale. One of the things that bothered me about historical fiction was when writers projected our (more-or-less) progressive views on historical people – for example, do I have any problem with a 10th Irish man raised in a devout setting being an atheist? No – do I have a problem with him being an atheist, well-educated, always right about the situation, and waxing rhetorical on views that we would find acceptable today? I’m more forgiving if it’s a historical person or we have documents on people being like this, but I find it a stretch if that isn’t there. The hardest part about this is giving someone a realistic worldview for that time, and not making them come across like a bigoted jerk (even though they probably were, but bear with me).
So I set out with this novel to make my characters more or less acceptable members of their societies, quietly critiquing some of their views. Even though I use elements of the all the seven classic plots, Tower of Obsidian is, at its core, based off The Love Story (Celtic Tragedy if you wanna get specific), and Kale and Aoife were designed to be, in what a normal story would be, the attractive alpha-couple whose love is epic and pure – anyone who opposes them and gets in their way is evil – but this isn’t a story about them, even though I kind of lead readers on a bit. I think Aoife will be more of a base-breaker then Kale, but we’ll see.
Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?
One thing that I learned about writing is that the character you start with isn’t necessarily the character you end up with – the character I’ve heard the most positive things about in the novel was one of the villains, by the name of Skolvane. Now, without giving too much away, Skolvane is Aurore’s ex who has been hopelessly in love with (at?) her for the past few millennia while she won’t come out of her tower. He’s possessive, cruel, but at the same time, chivalrous and noble. While I wrote Aurore to be interpreted in numerous ways, I found I needed to be more concrete with Skolvane – even if the reader sympathizes with him over Aurore, they can’t deny the guy is maybe going about things the wrong way. He was fun to write.
What are some of your favorite books? Do you still have much time to read?
I make time to read – in theory, I could probably write a lot more if I didn’t read so much, but I learn a lot about writing from reading.
My current favorite book is Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – a retelling of Cupid and Psyche, told from the perspective of Psyche’s sister. It’s about possessive love told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, and it’s done in the styling of how Christian values could be seen in a pagan culture. Highly recommended, but only if you’re familiar with the story; if you’re not, go read The Golden Ass by Apuleius. It’s a novella within a novel.
Other favorite books – wow, there’s a lot – how about I mention some great authors? I recently discovered Octavia E. Butler last year – I’ve only read Kindred and Wildseed so far, but I highly recommend both. Guy Gavriel writes amazing historical fantasy novels, so recommended reads are Under Heaven, Tigiana, and The Lions of Al-Rassan.
If a fairy godmother told you could be put into the world of your favorite book for 24 hours, which book would you pick and why?
Narnia – I’d probably get kicked out for bad behavior after about 90 minutes, but I’d make my time count! It would mostly be me egging on Reepicheep to go beat up horrific monsters. I’d be all like, “Are you a man or a mouse? Get in there!” There’s probably a reason you get kicked out of Narnia when you get too old…
If you could have dinner with any three authors, who would you choose and why?
How about Homer, Apuleius and Ovid? Huh, maybe I should pick some authors who can speak English…
How do you get past writer’s block or distractions like the internet?
I make small goals and work towards them. It’s not realistic for me to write a book in a week, but I keep focused on what I want to accomplish and work towards it in blocks. Sometimes, it’s time (I have one hour, let’s write) other times, it’s word count (I’ll write 500 words and then go do a workout) and I usually research things as I think about them on the internet unless I need to go somewhere else. Does the internet cause distractions? Absolutely – I find that I’m a bit of a hoarder with my time though, so it’s not hard for me to realize I’m screwing around and get back on track.
Favorite book from childhood?
This is going to be a strange answer – my favorite author when I was in grade school was Edgar Rice Burroughs. I guess the answer to this one would be his Barsoom Series! The Synthetic Men of Mars and A Fighting Man of Mars in particular were my favorites.
Do you ever write in your PJ’s?
Not really. I seldom hang out in my jammies, even when I’m sick I usually put on dayclothes. I find my jeans comfy, I guess.
Do you have any pets? Got pictures you'd like to share?
Not really – I’d like to get a dog again. Soon, I hope.
Name a place you'd love to visit someday?
I’d like to make it to the Australian Coast and Scuba the Great Barrier Reef.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
There’s going to be a lot of people saying you can’t do it or you shouldn’t – my advice is write what appeals to you, and don’t get discouraged. You don’t need to take classes – don’t get me wrong, they help – what you do need is the time and space to write. An important lesson I learned is that writing is like working from home – everyone will assume you have time and aren’t doing anything important – get yourself in a position where you can write. I’m a flexible ‘do it when I can’ person, but I also regularly produce a novel per year and a handful of short stories, most people need more of a schedule, but you decide what works for you. Other then that – once you have a completed novel, make a little spreadsheet where you’re sending it, and then start work on the next one. I find I don’t worry about where things are because I usually have 2 or 3 things out at a time, so I just focus on the task at hand. And rejections? Don’t take them personally.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.
Have you ever gone out in public with your shirt on backwards, or your slippers on, and when realizing it, just said screw it?
Heh, no – if I’m having a bad hair day, the hair goes in a ballcap though.
The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less:
Tower of Obsidian is about a mythic princess who refused to be rescued, and so her people cursed her. She remains all but forgotten in our world.
Pen or pencil?
Milk, white, or dark chocolate?
Dogs or cats?
Pie or cake?
CAKE! I’d like some Dark Forest actually.
Plotter or pantser?
Coffee or tea?
Tea tea tea tea tea! I love me my fancy teas. I’m currently enjoying a cup of Coco-Lemon Thai.
If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
I'd like to thank you again for visiting with me, L.T. It was great getting to know you a little better, and it was a pleasure to have you here. :) I wish you the best with whatever you tackle next!Thank you for having me!