Sunday, July 14, 2013

Author Interview: Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I am so very excited to be a part of the tour for Dragonwitch! As part of this tour I was able to interview Miss Stengl.  I hope you will hop on over to her blog Tales of Goldstone Wood. I am so excited for the release of this next book in her delightful series.

1. What inspired you to write fantasy?

Oddly enough, I know the exact moment I was inspired. I was about eleven years old, and I had been writing cat stories up until that point, just fun little adventures about a kitten named Berry and all his various friends. But my father was reading The Lord of the Rings out loud to us, and I was caught up in the story.
One night, in particular, he read the scene in which Frodo is pursued by the Black Riders to the ford at Rivendale. I was so enthralled at the idea of one so small, facing such enormous odds! The image in my head of little Frodo at the river, and those awful riders bearing down upon him . . . it was thrilling and dreadful and wonderful all at once!

And I decided I would write a fantasy myself.

Mine was . . . a little less thrilling, dreadful, or wonderful. It was about a cat, naturally. A magical, sarcastic, wish-granting cat whom all the neighboring kings wanted to find and control. It was a bit silly, really . . . but I have always enjoyed writing about cats! (And now you know why I write fantasy and how Eanrin came to be . . .)

2. Many of you later stories are referenced in earlier books. Did this take a lot of planning or just happen? 

Um, kind of both, I think. Some of the later stories were conceived before the first three published stories, so I always thought of them as foundational material for Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Moonblood. I always intended to write them, so made free with the references early on. But sometimes I would make reference to a story I hadn’t actually thought of yet. Just a brief reference . . . and suddenly I’d find an entire story taking shape! Shadow Hand is an example of that. Or, in the case of the “Night of Moonblood” referenced in Moonblood, I had written the epic poem years before . . . but then, after Moonblood was published, I got the idea for a full length novel about the original event.

Which is the novel I am currently writing.

So, it’s sort of both. They all connect back to and lead into each other. It makes sense in my head, at least!

3. Your write a lot of poetry and songs in your books. Have you thought about compiling a separate book with all the Goldstone poetry? 

I don’t consider myself a very good poet. That’s actually why I decided to make the most famous bard and poetic influence in my world be actually a rather terrible poet (at least, according to Lionheart!).  Everyone thinks he’s great, but we are all secretly laughing up our sleeves at him.

Making Eanrin a terrible poet took a lot of pressure off of me! But I still enjoy trying to write his various songs and verses and sometimes (accidentally), Eanrin writes a decent piece! The “Night of Moonblood” epic, for instance, or the “Song of Fireword” sung by the sylph in Veiled Rose. I am honestly proud of both of those pieces!

But actually compiling them into a separate book? Not sure. I have seriously considered producing a collection of short stories related to Goldstone Wood, and toyed with the idea of including poetry in that. Maybe I’ll actually do it one day . . . maybe . . .

4. Do you have a favorite book, one that is dear to your heart, of the ones you have written? 

My favorite is always the one I just finished. Right now, that means Shadow Hand . . . and the Super-Secret project, which I’ll be announcing soon!

I will say that both Starflower and Dragonwitch were particularly satisfying to write, since they were ideas I had many years before Heartless. I had tried to write both of them in various forms before, but not succeeded. I needed to improve my own writing skills first, and the first three Goldstone Wood novels provided valuable learning experience!

5. Who are your favorite characters and which characters do you identify with most? 

Well, my favorite character has to be Eanrin! (Have I mentioned that I’m a crazy cat lady?)

I identify with all of the characters in some way or another, both good characters and bad. They are all little pieces of me, taken and shaped and explored. When I wrote her, Princess Una was very much an extreme reflection of myself (I wasn’t quite that silly!), and later on, my husband told me that he thought Imraldera was a lot like me. But I tend to see myself more in little aspects of each character rather than in any character as a whole.

6. What author(s) most inspire you? 

C.S. Lewis will always be a huge inspiration. Sir Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones are enormous favorites—I would like to be either one of them when I grow up! George MacDonald’s short stories are always within grabbing distance if I need a reminder of why I love fairy tales. I also turn to some of the great poets for ideas and inspiration, particularly Shakespeare and Browning, both of whom I adore.

7. If you were to pick another genre to write in which would it be and why? 

Hmmm . . . I suppose I’d pick historical. I enjoy researching even for fantasies, though there’s a lot more flexibility in the research for fantasy! But I think I could probably find a way to enjoy writing historicals almost as much as fairy tales.

8. When you were just starting out as an author was there a piece of advice that you were given that made all the difference to you? What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out? 

The most important thing I learned was to become a good reader. I pursued an English literature degree at university, and it was the best choice I could have made as an aspiring author. The better reader you are, the better writer you will be!

My advice to young writers is always: Read, read, read!!! Read the greats and study them, pick them apart, figure out what makes them great. Read TONS of material in the genre you want to write, figuring out which styles and ideas you like, which you don’t care for so much. Read in genres you don’t always care for, read non-fiction now and then, and makes certain you ingest a healthy diet of poetry, because there is nothing quite like poetry to inspire great prose (even if, like me, you’re a sad little poet!).

And, of course, the flip side of read, read, read is write, write, write! The more you write, the better you’ll get. Don’t wait until you know what you’re doing . . . because if you wait, you’ll never learn. Writing is like learning a musical instrument. You don’t learn to play a concerto by sitting around wishing you knew how. You practice for hours and hours and hours!

So, basically: read, read, read/write, write, write. That’s my advice!


  1. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this interview. Great questions and wonderful answers! Anne, I'm delighted your desire to write fantasy started with Lord of the Rings, because that's where I started too! Although I read the books some time later. And at the river scene, I was less concerned about Frodo, and more mesmerized by that oh-so-incredible elf (love Glorfindel!) and his too cool horse.

    Plus, I squealed when you gave us that tantalizing sneak peak of your current-work-progress. So it's going to include the first night of Moonblood...most intriguing....

  2. Awesome interview! Thanks for sharing!