Could you take a minute and explain what The Veil of Gold is about?
It’s a supernatural thriller set partly in Russia in the present, and partly in the Russian world of fairytale. It’s about three people who become entwined in a centuries-old conflict between magic and politics in Russia.
What was the process like in getting your first book published?
That was twelve years ago, so I barely remember. I think it was 5 parts fun and 5 parts stressful. Still the same these days really. Writing them is great; publishing them is always a bit fraught.
Were you a big reader as a child/young adult? What were some of your favorite books and/or authors growing up?
Always loved reading. I loved Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood books; Anne of Green Gables; Narnia… then later Tolkien and the fantasy genre.
Would you mind talking a little bit about your literary influences?
They are so broad that “a little bit” won’t cover it. I read masses of Stephen King, but also have a degree in literature so have read masses of Milton, too. I’m currently obsessed with medieval literature, especially the very early Anglo-Saxon stuff. What influences me is changing all the time.
Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?
Really, I’ve only ever been interested in computer games. Some of my faves over the years have been Sim City 2000, Caesar III, and Streetfighter II. I am currently loving Super Mario Kart for the Wii. And then there’s World of Warcrack: see below.
Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.
World of Warcraft is it for me. I play pretty casually and am levelling slowly (I’m only at 77 and this is months after the latest expansion). Some weeks I won’t play at all, then I’ll have weeks when I go nuts and it’s all I’ll think about. When I was in the end-game before WotLK, we used to raid a couple of nights a week. I just loved it. I became gear hungry; I would think about it all the time. I would dream about epic drops.
I love the social aspect of the game. I play with my husband and with some other friends, and we are in a super family friendly guild with a lot of people and their 30s and older. I also love the high fantasy of it. And, as a medievalist, I really get off on the cool medieval details. Some of the viking settings in Northrend are superb.
I don’t know why there’s all the hype about Second Life. WoW has over 11 million subscribers; it’s hugely culturally important. And Second Life blows chunks.
Would you say that your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.
I don’t know if it has. The reason I started playing WoW was that I was thinking about writing a fantasy novel. My husband had been playing WoW since 2004, and he said I should try it to see if it gave me any inspiration. I think it worked negatively, actually. Even though I certainly got some inspiration it also ate up a lot of my time. But everyone has to have a hobby, and it’s a nice way to unwind. I have a lot of other things I do that inspire my writing far more. Reading is still it for me.
It appears you have a paper in the works entitled “Awesome Cleavage: Feminising Medieval Violence in World of Warcraft.” Would you mind talking a bit about this?
I’m presenting it at the Cultures of Violence and Conflict conference in Brisbane, Australia this year. It’s about how we reimagine medieval women’s agency and power in WoW (I play a warrior, for example, and she’s just as strong as the men) but we do so within really stereotyped Western patterns (the whole massive breastplate thing). So even when they were staging Wagner operas in the 19th century, the armed women like Brunhilda were still unmistakably women, with very evident breasts and long hair and bare arms. In fact, in the original medieval source material, women who put on armour were disguised as men. When Sigurd first saw Brynhildr, he mistook her for a man. So it’s this fantasy of what medieval women’s power and agency was like.
Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.
There sure is, and I’m doing it at the moment.The thing to remember about grinding though is that it has its rewards. We wouldn’t do it otherwise. So killing 100 mobs to go up a level is boring, but then you level and it’s “ding, I’m so happy”. Same when I’m making my way through a chapter of a book, and it’s hard work. I just keep pushing forward because I know I’ll be so happy when I crack the chapter. It’s actually a good quality to have as a writer: the ability to grind. People can become such perfectionists that they never finish a novel. I grind them out, then fix them up. You can’t edit a blank page.
By contrast, what would you say is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer?
Just being able to wander around in my imagination and chase my passions down rabbitholes. And get paid for it.
Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?
Read a lot, write a lot, and don’t join a hardcore raiding guild.
You wake up to a world where The Veil of Gold has been made into an MMO. What race and class would you play and why?
I would be the human. I just prefer to be my own species. As for class, the main character is kind of a mage figure, so perhaps I’d roll her. But really, when I’m gaming, I like to be the pretty girl who smashes people up with a giant weapon. Or her bare hands.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?
If you want to see the future of narrative, it’s in games. As written entertainment goes digital, I think we’ll see more and more quality writing in games. It’s going to be awesome.