Today you get to know the author of a middle grade fantasy novel The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt, which is a promising start to the Hartlandia series. Here's an interesting interview with Ilana Waters.
Thank you so much for this interview, Ilana.
Thank you, Priya!
- The title of the book says “Book 1 of Hartlandia.” Could you tell the readers a little about your world? How much research went into creating it?
World-building is such a funny thing in fantasy literature. Everyone agrees that it’s a crucial element of the story, but almost no one can agree on how it should be done. My basic recipe for the world of Hartlandia was to take everything I loved about traditional, medieval, Tolkien-style settings and put them in a novel.
As you might imagine, this was quite a task. ;-)
Naturally, I didn’t want to copy anyone else’s world, but construct one with my own “flavor” and personality. I literally wrote a list of everything I wanted in “my” world. Castles. Cottages. Magic forests that appear out of nowhere. Then I considered what I didn’t want (graphic violence—certainly present in medieval times, but inappropriate for a children’s novel. It also makes me queasy).
I did a fair amount of research on the time period, the tools used, and the way people might have acted. But since I wanted the story to resonate with 21st century readers, not all of that made it into the final draft.
This took a lot of rewriting and cutting things out so I didn’t “info dump” on the reader. And I realized, sadly, that I wouldn’t be able to include everything I wanted. Pirates. Galleon ships. Epic battles between armies. But that’s okay—it leaves a few things for Book II and III!
And to add my own flavor, I made the world a mishmash. It’s what I call “mostly medieval.” But there are many elements that wouldn’t have existed during that time. Things like libraries, female apothecaries, public schools, and factories. And Double Fudge Mocha Latte Very Very Cherry Chunk ice cream. It didn’t exist back then. But it should have.
- What is your favourite thing about writing fiction? Do you write anything other than novels, like short stories, flash fiction or poetry? (I would love it if you could share with us a poem or story!)
My favorite thing about writing fiction is going to sound pretty simple: you can do whatever you want. I especially like the fantasy genre, because you’re not constrained by reality (as you are in contemporary fiction). Don’t get me wrong—I like contemporary fiction too. But haven’t you always wanted to live in a world where you could meet fairies, make up spells, and own a magic sword? I know I do!
And yes, I write a lot of things besides novels. Right now I’m working on two novellas—the first I hope to publish in the beginning of the year. That one also takes place in Hartlandia, but centuries earlier. You get to meet one of the character’s ancestors and go on an adventure with him.
I’m also working on a free (!) short story of Hartlandia (also taking place many years before Stanley). That should be available in 2013 as well. Hopefully I’ll put out Book II of Stanley in the same year. Oh, and I have a vampire paranormal romance due in February or March as well (no joke). Because I thought the world could use one more of those. ;-P
I’ve been experimenting with flash fiction as well—it’s so much fun! I can’t believe I never tried it before. I think everyone should. And poetry, oh yes! There are a few poems in The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt which turn out to be more than “just” poems. But of course, your readers will just have to explore the book to find out more!
I’m afraid I don’t have any flash fiction that’s polished enough to show you at the moment. However, here’s a poem I considered for Stanley that was ultimately left out:
How can you love
something that bites?
How can you water
a flower that bleeds?
How can you stand
on the tips of your toes
and try to serve every need?
How can you hunger
for bread that is rotting?
How can you thirst
after poisonous drink?
Why do you run
a race never-ending—
Your efforts worth less
than you think?
How do you rule
a subject-less kingdom?
To master yourself
is a story untold.
How can you drop in
a well-water bucket
and come up with
nothing but gold?
- Are you a reader, too? If you had to pick between reading and writing, which would you choose? Okay, easy one, your writing keeps reminding me of Diana Wynne Jones. Were there any particular authors or books that influenced your writing?
Of course I am a reader! I don’t think I know a writer who isn’t. And to pick between reading and writing would be an impossible task. Each informs and inspires the other, so they’re pretty much fused together.
And thank you for saying my writing reminded you of Diana Wynne Jones. She is one of my favorite authors (I even did a blog post on her), whose style I do try to emulate. She was a definite influence. And I mentioned Tolkien earlier, of course. I think Philip Pullman’s world-building is something I aspire to as well.
Thank you again, Priya, for having me on your lovely blog!
Doesn't the book sound like fun? Check out the review tomorrow and until then you can visit the author's website right here!