Today I have the pleasure of featuring an interview with author Louise Blankenship as part of her Disciple blog tour to introduce the readers to her Disciple series.
L. Blankenship started writing animal stories as a kid and it’s just gotten completely out of hand since then. Now she’s out publishing her gritty fantasy and hard science fiction adventures. L grew up in New Hampshire but currently lives near Washington, DC.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your current projects.
I am a sometime graphic designer and prepress tech who has gone over to the dark side of fantasy and science fiction writing. My novel, Disciple, is a hard fantasy romance in six parts. Disciple, Part I, is available from all of the major electronic retailers. I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign to support the production of Disciple, Part II. Part III will follow later this year.
Q: When and why did you begin writing?
I’m not entirely sure when I began writing. It was before I was ten years old, certainly. I remember asking my parents if I could use their typewriter (to give you an idea how long ago this was) and I remember turning it on and the crickety hum it made. I typed out a little animal story, just a couple hundred words or so. And it was all downhill from there.
Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was only very recently that I fully embraced the madness that is writing. Early 2012, maybe? I began my writing blog ing February of 2012, so I suppose that’s as good a date as any.
Q: What inspired you to write your first book?
That was so long ago that I can’t remember. My first attempt at a novel came back when I was a freshman in high school — back in, um, ’85?
Q: How did you come up with the title of your work?
A disciple is the lowest rank of magic-user, in my fantasy world. Kate starts out the series as a lowly disciple. I think the devotion and the learning implied in the word “disciple” are a good fit to the development she goes through over the six parts of the story.
Q: What’s your writing style? Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My style is realistic, which can get graphic sometimes. Gruesome, maybe, but I don’t mean for it to be horror and I don’t do it just to shock the reader. Life just gets ugly, sometimes. I put a lot of work into the depth of the world, which I hope contributes to a lived-in feel. Voice is important to me, as an important part of the world-building and the characters. There’s no specific message in Disciple. I would prefer to pose questions, and let the readers reach their own conclusions, than to give them a message.
Q: What books have influenced your life most?
I’m terrible at these sorts of questions because I don’t spend time thinking about who has influenced me and why. Everything I have read has influenced me, however slightly or greatly. Those required readings in high school. The piles of schlocky movie script adaptations. A long list of the usual suspects, for fantasy and science fiction: Tolkien, Bradbury, Le Guin, Leiber, etc. Children’s classics and no-name fanfic writers. They’ve shown me how to tell stories well. They’ve shown me how to tell stories badly. It’s all part of learning to write.
Q: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I hesitate to say I have a favorite, for the reasons mentioned above. But there is one author (only one) whose work I will buy for no more reason than her name being on the cover: Lynn Flewelling. It’s not that anything in particular strikes me about her work — it’s overall quality and consistency of quality. Given how nit-picky a reader I am, that’s something.
Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Take the time to master the craft of writing. It takes time.
Q: Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
See the book trailer for Disciple, Part II at Kickstarter! Through the end of January, you can pre-order Part II, or buy a bundle of both parts, to help support the production. And get some goodies. Part II will be on sale April 1st.
As a treat to the readers, I’m pasting here the first chapter of Disciple I. Thank you Louise for stopping by and best of luck with everything on the tour and with Disciple!!
DISCIPLE, PART I sample
“You couldn’t sleep either?”
At the whisper, I looked up from struggling to lace my boots with trembling hands. My master stepped into my dormitory room, adding his lamp’s light to my candle.
“Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone. “This makes little sense.”
“Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my writing-table and checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”
The straw mattress creaked when I stood, boots laced and the woolen hose sagging between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cotes, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could guess and as memory was my Blessing I had no excuse for failing. Men’s underthings weren’t much concern to me — if I saw such, or more, it was while the man lay bleeding on the surgery table.
“If they stay up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. The hood buried my face in shadows; my blonde braid, even wrapped around my head, would give me away.
I asked, “Master, this journey will be long, won’t it?” Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All heavy winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”
He looked down at me, mouth quirking to one side. Master was a greybeard, said to be over a hundred years old, but his kir kept his eyes bright and his face lightly creased. I had only been his apprentice two years. Surely I could not be ready for this.
“It must be you, Kate,” was all he said. He carried one of my bags, and I took the other.
Wreathed in breath-clouds, we crossed the Order’s campus. Low on the horizon, the slim, waxing crescent of the Shepherd hung golden, all seven of his Flock scattered in the sky behind him. He gave the only hint that dawn was coming. The cloak kept me marvelously warm, even in the chilly breeze. No frost this morning, not yet, but it was only a few weeks off.
Master un-bolted the side gate and led me to the door of the Grand Chapel. Horses waited on the grass, many horses chewing at their bits and shaking their heads, most of them with knights in the saddles. The knights’ black tabards, worn over suits of mail, had a white horse embroidered on the right shoulder and two gold stars on the left, marking them knights and Prince’s Guard as well. Kite shields and bucket helms hung on their saddles, in easy reach.
Several of the horses stood with empty saddles, collectively held by a couple of pageboys, and that gave me pause. I’d never been on a horse; I was only a peasant girl. But it could not be so awful, I told myself, so I gripped my cloak a little tighter and followed Master Parselev inside.
My new boots rang too loudly in the empty chapel, and when I slowed to lighten my step I fell behind. Only one lamp burned on the high table before the icons, and its light was mostly blocked by those gathered below the two steps. Faces were cast in shadow as they turned toward us — all looming in the dim light, some cloaked like me, others not — and I knew none of them. I kept my head down as I joined my master before them, glad the hood hid my face.
“Not ready, Elect?” one asked, his voice low but strong. “Who’s this?”
“My apprentice will safeguard the travelers,” my master answered. “She has —”
“What?” The man stepped closer, his shoulders blocking out the light.
“Majesty, she’s my finest student.” Parselev put up a hand when the stranger reached for my hood.
My knees trembled as the word echoed in my head. Majesty. I stood before the king of Wodenberg. Wobbling a bit, I dropped to one knee in obeisance, fist pressed to my heart. The king yanked off my hood while I stared at the flagstone floor, pulse pounding.
“This girl?” the king demanded. “You trust a mere disciple with this mission?”