Today I’m lucky to have Katlynn Brooke answering questions on my blog, author of the Ialana Trilogy.
What inspires you to write?
Reading a great book. A book that is well-written with an interesting angle that goes beyond the ordinary. It is my wish to be one of those writers too, and the only way to do it is to keep reading amazing books, and to keep writing. In one of your questions below, I list the authors and the books they wrote that have inspired me the most.
What book are you promoting right now?
I am promoting The Six and the Crystals of Ialana, the first in my Ialana Trilogy. If readers are able to find it and read it, then the other two in the trilogy will—I hope—coast along on its coat-tails. It is recommended that one read them in sequence. Although each book is able to stand on its own, it will make much more sense to the reader to have familiarized themselves with the characters and setting in the first book.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
For The Six and the Crystals of Ialana, some aspects of it came to me in a dream. In the dream, I lived on the island that was featured in the book, and it was almost exactly as I described it in the book. The two sequels evolved naturally from the first book.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you fuel your writing?
If I’m not actually writing I am thinking about it 24/7. Everything is fuel to me: the way someone speaks, the stranger in the grocery store, the odd person walking down the street, even my dreams—all are filed away, and sometimes I make notes. I may not use everything; if I did, I’d have written thousands of books by now all in different genres, but when I am searching for a character I dredge up my memory files, or go through my notes, and see and what I have. Invariably I find something worth using!
What’s the best part of being a writer?
The freedom it gives to set my own hours, to not to have to report to anyone (I am self-published) or to explain to someone why I did something a certain way. For a person who loves to write, I feel like a child who has been given the keys to the candy store. I think of all the jobs I have held during my life, jobs I have not enjoyed, and know that this is the only one where I feel truly happy and free.
What is your favourite scene in your book?
To be consistent, I will stick to the first in the series, The Six and the Crystals of Ialana.
The Storm, in Chapter 20.
The Six are adrift on a boat on the empty ocean after a fearsome storm has taken their mast and sails. The Navy of Amrafalus is hot on their trail, and a deadly sea monster lurks in the depths. I once had an experience on a boat that forevermore left me terrified of boats and water. Inspired by my own fears, I created a situation for the Six where I could actually feel their terror and hopelessness as they drifted, with little chance of rescue, on the ocean. That day they knew they would die, as I also experienced it on my own boat adventure. Obviously, I survived, but will they?
Tell us about your main character? What makes him so special?
There are multiple characters, but I have made Jarah, a seventeen year old boy, slightly more special for the progression of the story arc than the others. He is the one whom I would consider the “main” character because he is quite fleshed out from the beginning.
In the first chapter, Jarah is a confused and insecure boy. Awkward and shy, he blushes easily, despises his job, feels inferior to his peers, and he is certain that they are laughing at him behind his back. And yes, they are.
His mother wants him to marry a village girl and settle down, and his father wants him to take over his bakery business, but Jarah feels there is more out there for him, and that something awaits him that is not connected to either marriage or the bakery.
When Jarah’s dreams begin, the dreams of the island, he feels that fate is pointing him in a different direction, but frozen by fear and indecision, he still is unable to act.
It takes a tragic turn of events to place him on his path of destiny, and the rest of the book follows the growth of Jarah as he steps, unwillingly, into his leadership role and becomes the man he would like to be.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
The Six and the Crystals of Ialana is not only an epic adventure story, it is also a coming of age book, and about taking responsibility for one’s personal power. It is not a power that one gains over others, but the power over one’s self: the ability to grow into who we really are, to find our true Self. All of us, not just these characters in this book, are powerful Beings who do not need to find their power in external trappings, but rather from within. The Crystals in the book are only a means, or a tool, to assist us in finding our personal connection with the universe, yet crystals too can be powerful Beings in their own right.
Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book? If so, can you share it?
In Chapter 10, Irusan, the shape-shifter who becomes the mentor of the Six, explains to them that “…You will come to understand that what you see as sorcery and magic is only the forgotten laws of the universe. What is a universe? It is everything around you and in you. There’s nothing existing that is not a part of it. It’s a field of consciousness that surrounds—no, that is the wrong word—it does not surround, but rather is the make up of everything that exists…”
Irusan is able to shape-shift and do seemingly magical things because he understands the laws of the universe. Not just its physical laws, but also those we cannot perceive with our five senses, what laws are behind creation itself, the mechanics of creation.
It seems god-like and inexplicable to the Six, and the true nature of the universe is only just being glimpsed by our own scientists in the present day. How would a tribal person, a human living in the iron age, for e.g. understand quantum physics? They would either worship as a god the person who does understand and make use of it, or, more likely, they would kill them. The nature of reality, and our perceptions, is at the core of the book and series as a whole: that when we are ignorant we can easily be manipulated because we have lost the personal power that comes with knowledge of Self and our place in the universe.
What do you read? What are your favourite books and who are your favourite authors?
I am an eclectic reader. I love to read books that inform and inspire. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. I have studied and read books of various religions and spiritual paths, from Christianity, Islam and Buddhism to all types of Mysticism. I am interested in what we currently know about science, and what we are only just finding out about it. I feel that science and spirituality are not incompatible. They can agree.
I love books about psychology so that I may better understand the many sociopathic personalities. So many of them inhabit my books in the form of the “bad guys and gals” I enjoy putting in them. There are also those who are not totally evil or completely good, but fall somewhere in between. It is important to me to make all my characters as realistic as possible.
I also read books about how to improve my writing. I particularly admire Stephen King’s book, On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft.
I am drawn to Science Fiction. I love Arthur Clarke, especially his Rama Series, and am a huge fan of everything Tolkien wrote. His world building is unrivaled. Douglas E. Richards is another of my favorite authors. He wrote Wired and The Prometheus Project Series. All excellent books. Hugh Howey is another inspired author whom I admire.
Young Adult Fantasy writers such as Mary Norton (The Borrowers), George MacDonald (The Princess and the Goblin), and Madeleine L’Engle, are all authors who have inspired me and captivated me.
What inspires your creative process?
A quiet house. Absolute silence. A good book.
Do you have any advice for someone starting out as a writer?
Don’t ever give up. Your first book may not be the success you hoped, but it is a stepping stone on the way. Work every day on honing your skills. I am still telling myself this, and I promise I won’t give up, either.
How do you market your books?
Through bloggers such as yourself, through Facebook ads, through Twitter, through some paid advertising, and generally wherever I can find an opportunity to place my books for free.
How do you get book reviews? Has this been successful?
I find book reviewers on the internet. It can be very successful, and is essential to self-publishers, but one must keep at it. 90% of success in marketing is in getting reviews. Out of every 50 requests I send out, I may get two responses. I consider this a success.
I am always careful to ensure my books are in the genre the reviewer prefers. That is important. I am polite, friendly and undemanding. That is even more important. If I get a bad review (hasn’t happened yet, but that only means I haven’t been around long enough) I would not explode all over the place, fall apart and quit writing. I am still grateful to the reviewer, because any review is good, even the bad ones, and I can learn something from them. The best authors get bad reviews, too.
What challenges have you faced in your writing and how did you overcome them?
Too much freedom can be a challenge. Since I am my own boss, I have to be the slave-driver boss to myself at times. There are days when I just don’t want to write, market, or promote, and I have to give myself a pep talk. I find that doing something—anything—even if it’s just one little thing, can help. Maybe, by the next day, I’ll have gotten over whatever it was that was holding me back.
Who or what encouraged (or still encourages) you in your writing?
My husband, family and friends are all encouraging. Without them, I could not do it, or it would be much more difficult. When I am down on myself, I call up my best friend and she talks me down from the ledge. My husband has been wonderful by supporting me financially when most authors have to support themselves with a ‘real’ job. I am very grateful to him.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Reading, and going to the gym. Writing is a sitting job, and it has had a negative impact on my health. I had a heart attack in 2015, and realized that although it is a genetic problem, I had also been sitting far too much. I now make exercise a regular part of my life. I find I need to support my body with diet and exercise because, with good health, I will be able to write more. I also keep up with my personal spiritual practices, meditation, and study that are helpful not only for my health, but in developing a creative mind.
What new projects are you working on or are excited about right now?
I am beginning a new series that goes beyond the Ialana Series. It is based on similar things, but with a cast of different characters. It is still in the early stages of development, but I have learned so much from writing the first series that I hope this one will be even more exciting and rewarding than the first.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If you have read The Six and the Crystals of Ialana and enjoyed it, you will love The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana, and also the third in the series, The Six and Anwyn of Ialana. This one will be available sometime in January 2016. It is completed, and I am only waiting on the formatting process which will not take too long.
I also want to add that the first book I ever wrote is in a different genre. I was born and raised in Africa (Zimbabwe), and after my mother died in 1991 my sister and I recovered her diary. It was a short one, and written while she worked on a Christian Hospital Mission before she married my father. Since it was rather uneventful, I decided to fictionalize it, and ended up with “Talk to the Moon”, a story about a young girl from South Africa who, with her sister, finds work on an African mission. She encounters romance, heart break, and a murder or two. The genre is African Historical, since it takes place during WW2.
Although I enjoyed writing this book, and even began writing a sequel, my heart decided I really preferred Fantasy, so I switched genres. I may yet get back to the sequel, but I have too much to write about now, so need to get that out of my system first!
Thanks so much Katlynn for the great interview and insights.
Links to Katlynn’s books: