Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interview With Bishop O'Connell

Bishop O'Connell is the author of The Stolen: An American Faerie Tale, now available in paperback or as an ebook. You can learn about his writing experience at his blog  A Quiet Pint  He was nice enough to be my first author interview!

Describe your book The Stolen in one paragraph:

It's a modern faerie tale. However, my faeries live in our world, hiding in plain sight. Because of this, they've evolved and grown with humanity. They've traded their bows for guns, horses for sports cars, and pots of gold for stock portfolios. They still have revels, but now they happen in nightclubs. In this world, a mortal child is taken, a violation of the faerie laws, and her mother must get her back. The problem being that her mother's knowledge of faeries and magic extends as far as Disney movies and the stories her immigrant grandparents told her.

What inspired The Stolen? Why did you want to write about fairy folk?

The inspiration was the poem 'The Stolen Child' by W.B. Yeats. The poem is about faeries luring a child away from 'a world more full of weeping than you can understand.' I wanted to tell the rest of the story, the parents' side.
I've always loved faerie tales, the magic and lore behind them. But, mostly, I just love faeries. I think it's because unlike so many other fantastical creatures, they're so close to human, they feel real. I like the idea of believable fantasy.

Is this your first work of fiction?

It's my first published work. The first novel I finished is a high fantasy, though in the Tolkien fashion, I set it in the past of our world. It was to be a trilogy on a different mythology, but I've decided to rework it as a side series to "An American Faerie Tale": In fact, the sequel to The Stolen, The Forgotten, makes some references to this side series.

What kind of research did you do for The Stolen?

I've been into fantasy since I was a little kid. I played D & D and I read faerie tales. Mostly, I pulled from what I knew, though I did look up a number of things to make sure I had it right. At first, The Stolen pulled from various mythologies--even Shakespeare--but I ended up going my own path and created my own mythos. The vast majority of research I did was on the languages in the book, Irish, Welsh, and Latin, and medical research. Since one of the characters is a doctor and another a nurse, I wanted to know what I was talking about.

Which character was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

Edward was the easiest to write. He is what I imagine happening if I, or any of my fellow geeks, get our wish and find ourselves able to use magic. It doesn't always go very well. The hardest was Caitlin. It wasn't because she's a woman, but because she's a parent. I don't have kids, and I had to imagine what it would be like to be a parent, a mother, in her situation. Luckily, I have some really good friends who helped with that. One in particular really helped me understand what it would be like as a mother to be in Caitlin's shoes.

What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I need a comfortable chair, a decent desk, and music. If I have those things, and a computer obviously, I can lose myself in my writing and go to work.

Any odd writing habits?

I don't know if it's odd, but I've been trying to drink less soda. When I write, I suck down Mountain Dew like it was ambrosia from the gods.

Do you outline?

I try, but it never works out. I usually start one to get an idea of where I want the story to go, what points along the way should happen and where it ends. However, around Chapter 3, the characters have decided to go their own way and I'm just trying to keep up.

What is the first fairy book you've ever read?

I don't remember if it was the first I read, but The Hobbit was the first I remember really enjoying. Like many my age, I saw that animated movie first, and I just had to read the book. I've been hooked ever since.

What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

This is going to sound like a cop out, but I like those worlds that are like ours. I've always used reading as an escape, and my childhood was less than pleasant. As such, I tended to be drawn to stories that felt like they could almost be real. It made me think maybe, just maybe, I could escape into them for real. Jim Butcher does a nice job with his Dresden Files series: In fact, I always look for landmarks when I go to Chicago. For a true fantasy, I have to go with Middle Earth. Who wouldn't want to have a drink with hobbits in front of a warm fire, or get to see Rivendell in person?

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

It was the advice I received in the early stage of The Stolen, when my mythology was an amalgam of many existing mythologies. An editor I hired told me that what I came up with on my own was good, and that I should trust myself. So I went with that and while my roots are in traditional faerie lore, the book is something I think is original. I carried that advice forward into all my writing. Trusting yourself isn't always easy, especially as a first time published author. But that advice has gotten me this far, and if I do fail, it won't be because I wasn't true to myself.

In The Stolen, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, to places you've lived, favorite writers, etc;?

There are a couple of Easter eggs. The most obvious is a nod to Harry Dresden. In a scene one character asks another where they're going to find a wizard, "it's not like they're listed in the phone book under 'w.'" Fans of the Dresden Files know that Harry actually is in the phone book. Location is also important to me, so I set it in Manchester, NH and Boston, Ma. I live in Manchester and I liked adding depth to the story so people might recognize places and landmarks. I wanted the locations to feel real. The sequel is set quite a bit in Seattle, and I've spent time there. Anyone from there, or who has lived there, will find some famous landmarks taking on a very different appearance.

Can you tell us what we have to look forward to in the sequel to The Stolen?

I really stretched myself for The Forgotten. In it I use quantum mechanics as a way of explaining magic. In fact, one of the characters refers to herself as a "quantamancer." I also explore the idea of an unreliable narrator, to be blunt, she's crazy. I liked exploring the idea of someone who could shape reality having a less than firm grip on reality. What would that mean? It also reveals a lot about the history of the fae and one in particular who was a prominent--and popular--character from the first book, Dante.

Thank you!

Thank you. It's always nice to talk about my work to another faerie fan!

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