“The Living Blade” Book series has become my latest reading addiction. If you want to find out why I rave about it, please read my review for “Touch of Iron – The Living Blade Book 1” (click here). I got so obsessed with the world that Nora, Owen, Master Diaz, and prince Bashan live in that I wanted to know more about its creator, debut author Timandra Whitecastle.
Our little chat was such a fun and it couldn’t have been otherwise. The girl loves Star Wars and Loki!
So, literary world, I’m giving you Timandra Whitecastle!
– Who exactly are you?
“Timandra Whitecastle, liliam inter spinas. (Hah!)”
– How did you decide to pursue a writing career?
“I remember this moment of decision well. I’ve always been writing stories for myself, dabbled in fanfiction, too (won’t say which fandom, though). But I had just become a mother for the first time, and to pass the time nursing, I read. A lot. I remember closing Joe Abercrombie’s final volume of the First Law trilogy (Last Argument of Kings), and besides being impressed, I remember thinking: wouldn’t it be cool if there were books like this with female heroes? I don’t mean heroines, by the way, I mean heroes, tragically flawed and broken, struggling as much with their inner conflict as with the external conflicts around them. So I searched and cast about, looking for that kind of book. But alas, I finally came to realize that perhaps I had to write the kind of book I wanted to read. So I did.”
– Was getting published hard?
“Yes and no. The traditional way through agents and publishing houses is plastered with rejection and the souls of talented writers crushed to pieces on the rocks below. So I chose to self-publish (because I’m also a control freak.) Self-publishing seems easy at first, right? I mean, how hard can it be to write a novel, slap a cover on it, upload it to Amazon, and ta-daaa, you’re self-published, right? Well, yes. And no. The journey is the destination. Getting self-published just means you have to do all the quality control yourself: get an editor, get beta readers, a copy editor, a proof reader, get an artist for your cover, etc. The good thing is, a lot of people become involved on the way, and they ensure that when you do hit publish, you’ve got a damn good product to sell. So, yes, it’s hard, but a very enriching experience.”
If you have casting suggestions,
tweet them @timwhitecastle
– Are your characters based on people you know?
“There’s a great scene towards the end of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf: the main character Harry sees himself disintegrate into many Harrys, each a whole, but also a facet of himself. Hesse then writes (I’m paraphrasing because I only know it in German) It’s a mistake and a cause of sadness to believe a person is a constant, whole entity. We exist in the form of many souls, many I’s. […] You can piece together the individual parts at any time and in any order, to thus demonstrate the endless plurality of life. So, in short, the answer to your question is, yes, the characters are all based on a person I happen to know very well, myself. Yes, even the villains.”
– What genre is your book?
“It’s grimdark epic fantasy.”
My characters are all based on a person
I happen to know very well,
even the villains
– Which of your books is your most favorite?
“Well, I’d say it’s always the next one I’m writing … The great thing about writing a series is building on what came before, and spinning the tale further.”
– Do you have a specific writing routine?
“Alas, no. Although it’s my goal to one day become a full-time writer one day, I have a day job as a teacher, and I have two small kids. I’d like to say I have a goal of writing/ editing 500 words a day. But … I sometimes can’t write daily. I’m too busy living. And when I do buy out the time to write, I don’t put my “butt in chair and just write” until I hit a certain word count.
I mean, maybe it helps to have “a room of one’s own” to write in peace and quiet for a certain time period every day. Maybe it’s good to set the goal of x amount of words before allowing yourself to call it a day. But maybe it also drives you mad and you end up killing yourself like Virginia or Earnest. I wouldn’t know because I don’t work like that.
I work like this: I make an effort to carve some time out of each day to think about what I’m working on AND keep an open mind to all the life and characters happening around me that may inform my writing in deep and meaningful ways. In movies, this would be the pre-production stage. Or pre-viz. I’m basically setting myself up for the actual writing process so that when I do have the time to sit down and write my guts out, there’s enough raw material there to catch with a bucket.
Also I read. Daily. Like I breathe. It fuels me. It’s not only that it sharpens my mind, to quote Tyrion Lannister, but also because without input, you cannot have output.”
I finally came to realize that perhaps
I had to write the kind of book
I wanted to read
– What are your current projects?
“The second volume of The Living Blade series, as yet untitled. The first half is done and will be with the beta readers soon, and I’m half way through the second half. (Hmmm. Lots of halves in that sentence.)”
-What’s next for you?
“I’m going to try and write a few short(er) stories in the same world to give away for free and thus build my email list …”
– Where do you draw inspiration from?
“I’ll do the author thing and say: everywhere. Books I read, shows I see, movies I watch, people I observe, the landscape I live in. The truth is, though, some inspiration is describable, some just isn’t. The describable part is like this: I love reading, and I’m a fan of any kind of mythology. So there’s a well deep enough to never run dry. It helps, too, that I studied history and literature, so I have a detailed understanding of pre-industrial revolution societies that maybe most people do not have (and I know where to find the books that answer my questions when I don’t know something. Hooray for university libraries!)
For much of the actual story structure, well, I do own Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, but I love his mythology books far more.
And besides, what really helps is just keeping your eyes open, listening to and lovingly observing human behaviour, and recognizing the ways your characters would actually behave. People are people everywhere.”
Like I breathe
It fuels me
– If your book becomes a movie, which actors should play the leading roles?
“That’s a really tough question. But only because I’m not very up-to-date with the stars out there. I’d love to see an Amazon original series of my books, though I have little ideas to casting choice. But if you have suggestions, tweet them @timwhitecastle. I’ll tell you if you’re way off. (That said, I do love Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki, though, and I based one of my er … villainous characters on that damn good acting.)”
– Your favourite authors?
“I have a freight train load of influences from all over the place. The strongest are those writers that made such a deep impression on my mind that I wanted to write my own stories. There are many honorary mentions, really, but these following three had the strongest impact. I’ll do this chronologically.
The obvious first: Star Wars. Yeah. I belong to the generation of people who grew up on Episodes 4, 5, and 6 – to the point where I had seen the movies so often, I not only knew every single line, but also the little details in the background. However, I soon wasn’t satisfied with only replaying Luke’s adventures. I wanted to create my own. That moment of ownage was an important one, I believe, as it was the first time I consciously thought: I want to tell stories (and become a Jedi when I grow up. So, thanks, George Lucas.)
Next: Tolkien, obviously. I love the Lord of the Rings and could say many good things about it, but … The Silmarillion has become a touchstone in my life. I read it every year at least once, or parts of it every now and again just to check and see if I still am who I was when I was fifteen. (I’m not, of course, but my core has proven strangely resilient to all that life has thrown at me so far.) I’m a big mythology geek anyway, so reading The Silmarillion was an eye-opener – you could do this with fiction, too? Awesome.
Another big influencer was Chuck Palahniuk, but in a different way. I read Fight Club when I was seventeen and impressionable. And I’m so glad I did – I don’t know whether it would have had the same effect later on in life. The minimalistic writing, the force of the words that punch you in the face with truisms that again struck a chord deep within – it changed the way I read. Now, I do read a lot. It’s like a drug and I do withdrawal very badly. But what I’m secretly addicted to is that raw kick-in-the-head-style of enlightenment that gives me insight on myself. And Fight Club did that for me. However, some of Palahniuk’s stuff I consciously side-step because I know the effect his words will have on my mind for a long time (like Guts was disgusting. I will never be able to eat calamari again.)”
who I am underneath,
but what I do that defines me
– What are you currently reading?
“It’s a weird mix. Right now, I’ve just finished Mark Lawrence’s The Liar’s Key (grimdark fantasy), and have moved on to Jonathan French’s The Grey Bastards (also self-published grimdark fantasy), then I’m looking forward to Timandra Harkness’ Big Data. Does size matter? /shrug”
– What’s your favourite life motto?
“I will quote Batman on this: It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
Is the Living Blade real or just a legend? With it… Prince Bashan could win back his kingdom. Master Telen Diaz can free himself of the burden from his past. Owen Smith sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain untold knowledge. … but for Noraya Smith, the Living Blade will bring nothing but suffering and sorrow.
“Realistic, character-driven fantasy that manages to both sever limbs and warm the heart.” – Kirkus Reviews