Joanne Hall

I’d like to introduce you to the fifty-eighth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Joanne Hall.

Hi, Joanne! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?

Hi Susan, thanks for having me! I’ve always written and made stuff up, since I was old enough to hold a pen. I’ve written fanzines and dabbled in music journalism, but fiction, particularly fantasy, is my first love and is the thing I always go back to.

Your fantasy novel, The Art of Forgetting, Book One—Rider, was released today by Kristell Ink Publishing/Grimbold Books. Can you tell us a bit about your book? What inspired you to write it?

It’s a stand-alone sequel to an earlier novel I wrote. I left a thread hanging at the end of Eagle of the Kingdom, and The Art of Forgetting takes up that thread and sees how far I can unravel it. It’s the story of Rhodri, who has an eidetic memory that makes the people around him wary of him. He’s been abandoned in the village of Pencarith by his father, who promised to return for him ten years ago. Seeking to escape the village and look for his father, he joins the cavalry and rides for Northpoint. It’s a coming-of age story, about how Rhodri comes to terms with his abilities and discovering that his father isn’t quite the man he remembers…

At the time I started writing it, I was working on another book that wasn’t quite working out, and I woke up one morning at 4am with the first few scenes of Art of Forgetting going round and round in my head, so I thought I’d better get up and write them down before they got away! The book really wrote itself, the first (very rough) draft took eight months and was 250k, which is huge! It took a LOT of editing to hammer into shape.

Have you begun work on Book Two of the series? How many books do you have planned?

I’ve always liked the idea of writing stand-alone novels set in the same shared world – Anne McCaffrey does that with her PERN books and I’m a big fan. I like the hints of crossover, the way characters and locations can turn up again in a different context. I like the idea of building a world with a proper ongoing history, so the events of earlier books impact on later ones, but so that you don’t have to read all of them, or read them in order, to get a sense of the wider world moving on around the characters.

(This is where it gets complicated) My first three books were a trilogy, and Art of Forgetting is the sequel, but you don’t have to have read the first three for it to make sense. When I sent it to Kristell Ink, it was 195k, and I was encouraged by their website that said they didn’t mind how long submissions were. So I got an email back from Sammy, and the first thing she said was “We love it, but it’s a bit long…” We decided to split the book into two halves, so Rider came out at the end of June, and Volume Two – Nomad is due in November. I have another complete novel, Spark and Carousel, which is set at the same time but completely unrelated, and I’m working on a follow-up to Art of Forgetting which takes place around thirty years later, but I can’t say much about that because of spoilers!

Your New Kingdom fantasy trilogy was published by Epress Online and was a finalist in the PLUTO and Eppie Awards. Can you tell us a bit about those books?

The trilogy, (Hierath, In Exile, Eagle of the Kingdom) is the story of Rhodri’s parents, their relationship, and the civil war that surrounds them (again, I can’t say too much because of spoilers, but there’s romance and swordfights and magic and treachery – what’s not to like?) Some of the characters in the New Kingdom trilogy turn up or get a mention in The Art of Forgetting, and the events of those books have an impact that ripples through Rhodri’s story.

What has your experience with Kristell Ink Publishing been like? Is it everything you’d hoped for?

It’s been brilliant. I’d submitted to a lot of agents and a few publishers before I found KI on Twitter, and they were very quick to respond, very supportive and encouraging. I was worried that I was going to have to fight my corner to keep some of the more controversial themes of the book intact, but Robert Peett and Sammy Smith not only supported that but encouraged me to push myself to make the book ten times better than it would have been if I’d done it on my own. They’re really easy to work with, (even if Robert does enjoy a healthy argument every now and then!)

Your short stories have appeared in many publications. Do you have a favorite story (of yours), or one that means more to you than the others?

I couldn’t pick a favourite – I like them all in different ways. The Hoff stories were my first go at writing comedy, and I think they turned out quite well – when I read from them people laugh, anyway. I like the stories that form the fringes to the novels; there are a few short stories I’ve written that feature characters and locations from the books, and they’re always fun to write and add a bit to the mythology of the world. I opened and closed my short story collection “The Feline Queen” (Wolfsinger Publications) with two of those stories that both feature Elvienne, a travelling mage who turns up in a few of my books, and has a big role in both “Spark and Carousel” and “In Exile”.

You are the Chair of BristolCon, Bristol, England’s thriving science fiction and fantasy convention. How did you become involved with that? What are your responsibilities? What do you like or dislike about being the Chair of BristolCon?

BristolCon was dreamed up in the pub, like most of the best mad ideas are. I was having a pint or three with my friend, the late great Colin Harvey, and we were bemoaning the fact that a city as crowded with SF/F writers as Bristol didn’t have its own convention, and we should put something on. So we did. The first year we had about 60 people and ran for an afternoon, last year we had around 300 people and two streams of programming.

I’m the chair, which makes me chief cat-herder. I have a brilliant committee with me and they all do a fantastic job, but it’s very much a team effort and we all motivate each other. I’m responsible for making sure everyone is doing what they’re meant to be doing, taking over if anyone is struggling, arranging meetings, dealing with queries. Just ensuring that things run as smoothly as they can when dealing with trying to entertain that many people.

BristolCon is also a charitable foundation, so any extra money we make is pumped back into the local SF community, to promote local writers and artists.

I love chairing BristolCon, I love seeing everything go well on the day and people having a good time. It’s very tiring, and it’s a bit of a time-suck, especially in the run up to the event, but it’s also really good fun. Though every September I throw up my hands and shout “never again!” I always come back for more…

You run the Bristol Fantasy and SF Society Facebook group. How many members do you have? What do your members get from the group?

Yes, the Fantasy and SF Society grew from a creative writing group in Bristol that was fading because it was hard to find new members. We decided to take the group on line and see if there was any interest, expanding it to include readers and SF / F fans as well as writers. There are currently around 150 members in the Facebook group, not all of them active, and about 20 of us meet up once a month and spend an evening in the pub just chatting. We are brought together by Mutual Nerdiness 😉 The pub meetings are open to everyone, and it’s all very casual. It’s just a way of getting together with other writers and SF fans, sharing ideas and frustrations and gossip. Writing can be quite a solitary profession, so it’s good to get out with like-minded people once a month and just relax.

How do you feel about the “rules” of contemporary writing: no adverbs, no dialogue tags, show don’t tell, etc.? In your opinion, how important are they to writing? Are there any that you particularly adhere to?

I think you have to at least be aware of the rules, so that you know when it’s more effective to break them! I don’t mind adverbs and dialogue tags, I think a liberal sprinkling can enliven your writing, as long as it’s not every single line. It’s good to vary your sentence structure and paragraph structure to keep it lively, but it’s most important to tell a good story in an engaging way. I’ve read and loved stories that were technically poorly written but had great characters and plot, and I’ve read things that were technically perfect that left me cold. Even a bit of telling not showing can be effective sometimes!

What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?

My favourite part of writing is probably the second draft. My first drafts are usually horrible lumpen masses, but by the second draft I can see the structure of the story and I can begin to carve it into shape and add all the little details and sub plots and extra bits of character development. That’s when it starts to really feel like a book. After that it’s just endless tweaking to try and knock off the rough bits.

My least favourite part is the final edit, going through looking for dropped commas and minor spelling mistakes. By that time I’m so familiar with the book I’m beginning to feel heartily sick of it! I’m not very fond of marketing either, I’m naturally a very shy person, so having to put myself out there and say “buy my book!” is something I find really challenging.

What books or authors have influenced your writing?

Oh gosh, I think I’m influenced by almost everything I read or watch, there are always nuggets of inspiration that seem to turn up in the most unlikely places. But some of my favourites that I owe a debt to are David Gemmell, Juliet McKenna, Joe Abercrombie, Raymond E Feist, George RR Martin, and before them, David Eddings, C.S Lewis, Richard Adams and Diana Wynne Jones, who were the fantasy writers I cut my teeth on before I was even in my teens.

Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!

Thanks for having me!

Website – http://www.hierath.co.uk
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/hierath
Twitter – @hierath77
Grimbold Books – http://www.grimboldbooks.com/
Kristell Ink – http://www.grimboldbooks.com/kristell-ink/
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Art-Forgetting-Rider-Joanne-Hall/dp/1909845000/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372333789&sr=1-7&keywords=the+art+of+forgetting

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