Thursday, 23 August 2012

An Interview with Resa Nelson, author of the Dragonslayer Series

Today I'm playing host again, this time for fantasy author Resa Nelson as she stops by for an interview as part of her Stone of Darkness Blog Tour.  Take it away Resa...

Interview with Resa Nelson

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

For me, writing is like air – I can’t imagine living without it.  When I’m writing, the characters and the book are very real to me, and it’s thrilling!  Otherwise, my life is probably pretty tame.  I’m a movie fanatic, I read whenever I can, I love animals and nature, and I’m dedicated to exercise (which I actually love – I know, I’m one of those weird people but I love chocolate, too!).  When I was in college I had to take a course in human anatomy and a dissection lab.  It was a night class, and the building looked like Dracula’s castle at night.  I had to walk up a rickety staircase to the top floor, and the cadavers were stored in these coffin-like metal cases.  The first night I was terrified!  But the course turned out to be fascinating.  Because I’ve seen what happens on the inside when you do and don’t take care of yourself, I exercise every day and plan to keep it up for the rest of my life.

Can you tell us about your Dragonslayer fantasy series?  How did it originate?

It began as a short story I wrote and that was published in a magazine.  I wrote a second story in that world that was published in the same magazine.  The reader response was so strong that I thought it would be a good idea to expand it into a novel – but only if I came up with an idea that I loved with my whole heart.  During the next 8 years I had a few ideas but rejected them.  Finally, I came up with an idea that I felt excited about, and I wrote Book 1 (The Dragonslayer’s Sword).  While writing it, I realized the world I’d created could support a lot more story, and one book turned into a 4-book series.  I like to give people a way to sample my work for free, so I have a free “mini” ebook of the two short stories I wrote in my Dragonslayer world.  There’s no obligation, and everyone is welcome to download it at

Your third book in the Dragonslayer series is now published.  Can you tell us a bit about it?

In Book 1, one character shares some information about an event that has happened in another country:  a warrior king is spreading a new religion and has destroyed a temple for people who worship tree spirits.  (This is based on a similar incident that happened in real life during the Middle Ages that I came across while researching this series.)  It’s just a sentence or two mentioned in passing.  But in Book 2, my main character Astrid gets caught up in a situation that takes her to that foreign country, and she sees the ruined temple, which changes her.  In Book 3, Astrid travels through foreign countries and ends up coming face to face with the warrior king.  She learns that his plans are far more serious and threatening than anyone has imagined.  She realizes that she and her country will be facing trouble, and she has to do something to warn the people she loves.

You’ve also written another book, Our Lady of the Absolute.  What is it about? 

It’s about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt.  So the story takes place right now in the real world, but the fantasy element is that there’s a place in the world where people live like they did in ancient Egypt.  They worship the gods of ancient Egypt, and the goddesses Isis and Sekhmet play a huge role in the story.  These people deal with outsiders, but they don’t like them.  They keep the rest of the world at arm’s length.  The hero is Meres, a woman who loves her husband but feels like an outsider in her culture because she has no children.  She’s devoted to her country and her people.  But there’s a serial killer on the loose, and Meres doesn’t know that she’s the killer’s next target.  This book is a bit more like a mystery/thriller, but what is has in common with all my novels is that the main character is a woman who is strong, smart, and courageous.

You’ve been a columnist and contributor to various sci-fi and fantasy magazines, before becoming an author.  What drew you to these genres?

Long before I wrote novels, I started out as a short story writer.  I always wanted to try my hand at journalism and had taken courses in journalism in college.  When a friend took over the editorship of a magazine, he felt unhappy with the quality of the nonfiction because he had a different vision.  He decided to recruit some of the science fiction and fantasy writers he knew to take a crack at writing nonfiction, and I was lucky to be included in that group.  It’s like the old saying about being in the right place at the right time.  But I already had some experience as a copywriter, and I knew the basics of putting an article together so it wasn’t too much of a leap.  Once I got started, I ended up selling articles to 16 magazines.  Best of all, most of the articles I wrote were about upcoming movies and TV series.  I’ve been a huge movie fan all my life, so it was a perfect fit.

What is the hardest part of writing fantasy fiction?

That’s a really good question.  For me, I think the hardest part is striving to keep my work as fresh and unique as possible.  I’m always pushing myself to figure out the best and most unexpected ways to put twists and turns into my books.  I also want my work to grow organically out of my own life and experiences and world view.  So it boils down to resisting the temptation to use clichés or get anywhere near stories that other people have already written.

What type of research have you done for your books?

Lots!  In my Dragonslayer series my main character Astrid is a female blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers.  I took a course in blacksmithing.  I also took courses to learn historically accurate techniques of using swords and other weapons from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  I ended up joining a sword guild and was a weapons demonstrator at a museum for several years.  I’ve also traveled and read a lot of books that I borrowed through interlibrary loan.  In a nutshell, I’ll do whatever kind of research I think I need to write a good novel.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

Work at your craft constantly.  There’s so much to learn, and then you have to figure out how to do it all at the same time.  I learn by doing, and I’ll bet I wrote at least 100 short stories before I made my first professional sale.  I’m always learning about the nuts and bolts of my craft and working at becoming a better writer.  My goal is for each book I write to be better than the last.

What’s next for you?

In early summer I finished Book 4 (which is the final book in my Dragonslayer series), delivered it to my publisher, and it’s scheduled for publication in November.  My next novel is going to be near-future science fiction blended with mystery, and I plan to start writing it in September.  I’m in the phase of thinking through the big story of the book and doing research.

You can find Resa's books at her website and a list of her blog tour stops here:

Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.
Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was published last December, Book 3 was published in May, and the final book in the series is scheduled for publication in November.
Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."
Resa lives in Massachusetts.

And be sure to check out my other blog In the Spotlight on September 11th when I feature Resa's Dragonslayer series.

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