Author Interview: Anne Elisabeth Stengl (+ giveaway!)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

For today, I have the very special pleasure of welcoming Anne Elisabeth Stengl for a interview here on Fullness of Joy. Anne Elisabeth has just released her latest novel in The Tales of Goldstone Wood series, Shadow Hand,  and I can vouch for how wonderful it actually is ;). Most Fullness of Joy readers would probably be familiar with who my favourite modern fantasy author is by now, so I shall leave all the 'introducing' to the interview itself... :). As a special treat, along with this interview, Anne Elisabeth is kindly offering an exciting giveaway of any one of her six Goldstone Wood novels to one happy winner! So be sure to read to the end of this post, and enter in the Rafflecopter entries below, for a chance to win any one novel in the series which you choose. And now, without any further ado...

Author Interview:
Anne Elisabeth Stengl
        1.  Hello, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, what a delight it is to have you on Fullness of Joy blog today! To start this off, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and how you first started writing as a profession?

Hi, Joy! It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for inviting me for an interview.

So, a little about me  . . . I am a crazy-cat-lady, tea-drinking, book-devouring lover of fairy tales, and I spend my time writing fairy tale adventure novels for YA readers. I am married to the ever-so dashing and handsome Rohan, whom I met at fencing class, and who knows how to make the perfect cup of tea (this is very important in a man). He also knows my favourite flower, and surprised me with a bouquet of sweet-smelling stock just this week. (Stock, as a flower, never gets enough attention due to its singularly unromantic name. But it’s my favourite, and Rohan knows. He’s a gentleman with an eye for the details.)

I wrote my debut novel, Heartless, when I was twenty-one, signed my first contract at twenty-two (thanks to my agent, Rachel Kent), and have been busily writing professionally ever since. My sixth full-length novel, Shadow Hand, just released in early March, and I am looking forward to book 7, Golden Daughter, releasing in November. Exciting times!

         2.     Without giving too much away, could you be persuaded to tell us a bit about your newly released novel, Shadow Hand, and how it fits into the Tales of Goldstone Wood series?

Well, to understand how Shadow Hand fits into the series, readers must know that I never write my stories in a precise sort of chronological order. That would be a very “mortal” way of looking at history, all in one continuous stream. But immortals would view history very differently, seeing connections and patterns across the centuries that would be missed if viewed only from a linear perspective.

So the first three books in the series are set in what we will call the “present.” Books 4 and 5, however, go back in time a good 1600 years. But Shadow Hand, book 6, connects the “present” books and the “past” books, tying them together so that it becomes impossible to separate the two, despite the hundreds and hundreds of years between them.

It’s complicated. Yes. But, if you read the stories, it all makes sense!

That being said, I do think it’s very important for readers to have read the previous books before picking up Shadow Hand. I do my best to write each story as stand-alone as possible, and some readers have managed to enjoy Shadow Hand pretty well without familiarity with the rest of the series. But it definitely limits enjoyment if you don’t know the world and at least some of its histories.

The story itself is a wild adventure, full of monsters and curses and dangers galore. There’s a lady running from her own wedding, and a prince determined to find her and tell her that, well, he won’t marry her after all! No matter how much he loves her . . . There are a number of familiar characters from previous books who return in this story, both from the past and the present. And there are new characters as well, most notably Queen Nidawi the Everblooming, a Faerie who is as mad and terrifying as she is endearing. Shadow Hand also features what I think may be my most frightening villain of all time . . . the disembodied fey parasite, Cren Cru.

        3.     Isaac Newton was known to have said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Who do you see as having been the literary giants or “Greats” that have inspired your writing and perhaps even your life thus far? 

When asked a question such as this, the first name that comes to my mind is always George MacDonald. I have been madly in love with his fairy tales ever since reading The Princess and the Goblin . . . a book which only gets better with age and re-readings. No one since MacDonald has ever written such beautiful fantasy with such delicate handling of allegory.

No one . . . but C. S. Lewis sure comes close. Another masterful giant whose work I adore, from his lovely Chronicles of Narnia to the heart-wrenching, brain-twisting Until We Have Faces. I recently re-read Out of the Silent Planet and was awed all over again at Lewis’s use of prose and his deep passion for his God, which he communicates with far more subtlety than I could ever hope to emulate (though I will go on trying!)

Stylistically, I am a huge admirer of Sir Terry Pratchett, who writes some of the best modern prose I have ever encountered. He often gets passed over among the erudite for writing “comedies.” But a closer inspection of his work reveals such thoughtfulness, such authenticity . . . beauty of work seldom found among modern writers. He is a master. He and I disagree on many and most philosophical and theological points (he is deist, I believe), but that does not decrease my admiration. If I, as a Christian, could learn to write my own beliefs into my work with half the skill Sir Terry Pratchett wields . . .well, I might then consider myself a real novelist!

I also love Diana Wynne Jones and Megan Whalen Turner. I would be happy to be like either of them when I grow up.

I think, in my own version of the world, I would like to be a perfect splice of George MacDonald and Sir Terry Pratchett. But since I am me, I will do the best with what God has given me!

           4.     What inspired the plot of Shadow Hand? Were you aware of this story from the time you wrote Veiled Rose and Moonblood or did the seed of the story come later?

I think I began seriously toying around with the ideas for Shadow Hand partway through the drafting of Veiled Rose. This was due almost entirely to the character of Lady Daylily, who served as the “other woman” character in Veiled Rose and Moonblood. She was just so much more interesting, so much more complex than your typical “other woman,” and I knew she had a story all her own.

Then I had the idea to make Foxbrush the hero. Foxbrush, who is viewed exclusively through the “pathetic” lens in both Veiled Rose and Moonblood . . . Foxbrush, who is the last word in unexpected heroes! Once that idea struck, I knew the story would have to be written.

The rest of the plot came through study. I read the Ballad of Tam Lin—I studied into the legends of Crom Cruach and St. Patrick, along with a variety of other Irish legends—I pored over pages and pages of the extremely strange and extremely dry Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer. Eventually the plot for Shadow Hand emerged.

I also spent an inordinate amount of time researching the cultivation of figs. That was . . . interesting.

         5.     Can you picture any of the novels in The Tales of Goldstone Wood being adapted into movies? How would you feel about it if they were? In the stuff of your dreams, who would you cast for your main characters in Shadow Hand?

I confess, I’m not much of a “movie person.” Most movie adaptations of books have to be reduced to bare bones in order to fit on the big screen, and I hate the idea of that happening to my stories! I think the only one I could see possibly working as a movie would be Heartless since it is the simplest of all the stories . . . the gateway book into the rest of the series. Even then, for modern movie audiences, Princess Una would have to be transformed into a tough-as-nails dragon-slayer type who solves all her own problems with a sword. Which pretty much defeats the entire purpose of that story. And Prince Aethelbald would have to be significantly hotter . . . that, or Prince Lionheart should be the hero and come through in the end.

No. Can’t really see it.

As for casting . . . Wow. I never cast my characters as movie/TV stars since I don’t think Hollywood boasts enough “real” looking people. A bunch of pretty pictures of pretty faces never helped anyone write a more compelling character. Thus I seriously don’t have any ideas here. Sorry!

But readers, I would love to hear YOUR ideas of who should be cast for the major characters, either of Shadow Hand or any of the other books!

           6.     While writing Shadow Hand, did you find yourself learning any lessons or going through any of the journeys/struggles that your characters went through yourself?

My characters are always made up of little pieces of myself—either pieces of my current self or my past self. Daylily struggles with repression in a way that I can deeply relate to, and her final salvation is a reflection of my own. Foxbrush’s struggles with the pressure of kingdom-ruling and his own inadequacy are also a reflection of personal struggles. Lionheart’s struggles were perhaps the most present on my heart . . . his inability to see where his Path will lead, his feelings of abandonment in the midst of an impossible situation . . . I think a lot of people living the daily Christian walk will feel the truth of Lionheart’s storyline in this book!

7.     As a Christian as well as an author, how do you feel your faith affects your writing generally and your stories in The Tales of Goldstone Wood series specifically?

I never set out to write an allegory. I always set out to write a story. However, I consider my writing to be the truest, purest form of worship with which I bring glory to God. As a result, I must bathe my writing in prayer, turning each project over to Him to do with as He sees fit. So, in due time He provides me with any “message” to be communicated. And He sees the stories into the hands of those readers who need them and will be most blessed by them. I am the vessel. I do the work. But He provides the life and the inspiration, and all the glory is His.

8.     In writing in the fantasy/fairy-tale genre, do you hold to any convictions or guidelines on how you approach things like magic, sorcery and allegory in your books, as well as drawing the distinction between good and evil?

As I said above, I pray over my work constantly. And then I write. That’s about as structured as it gets. I never write about “good” witches, and there is always a clear line between good and evil. This being said, my protagonists are not always “good,” per se. They are fallen and sinful, and most of them serve as their own worst enemies.

9.     Carrying on from the previous question, is there a reason for why almost all your villains (except the Dragon himself) seem to have redeemable qualities and regrets over their choice of path? In an allegorical light, do you see them as representative of demons or rather as fallen sinful creatures with the hope of redemption?

The only character who could be viewed as a “demon” is the Dragon . . . and, of course, his Sister. Though I don’t really view either of them as demons so much as “incarnate representations of Evil,” which is not really the same thing.
The rest of the characters—good and bad, mortal and immortal—are all creatures in need of grace. They all, in their own unique ways, represent you and me.

10.  I have always been baffled to understand the background of a certain female villain (not the Dragonwitch) in the Goldstone Wood. Can you tell us a little on the relationship of the Death-in-Life and her interaction with the Dragon? Who is she exactly?

Well, for one thing, she is not the Death-in-Life. She is the Life-in-Death, the flipside of the coin to the Dragon, who is called the Death-in-Life.
She and the Dragon are anthropomorphic personifications of evil. Or, to rephrase it in layman’s terms, they are personalities representing evil. Evil incarnate. They are neither mortal nor immortal, for they are Evil itself captured in person form. They are the same Evil, but they are different sides of the same Evil. Thus they are called Brother and Sister.
They are also in conflict with each other . . . because what is Evil if not conflicted?
These characters stem directly from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, an epic ballad, a stunning allegory, and a long-time favourite of mine. The scene these characters are taken from is this:

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there Two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
“The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!”
Quoth she, and whistles thrice. (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, lines 177-194)

You can see in this brief excerpt many of the themes from which I drew: The twin incarnations of Death (I made mine Brother and Sister, rather than Mates), the casting of dice, the “Nightmare” theme. In the ballad, since the Lady wins, the Mariner himself does not die but goes on living a nightmarish shade of life, which is in itself a death.
This is what we see taking place with Prince Lionheart in book 2 of my series, Veiled Rose. The Lady Life-in-Death wins the game, and therefore she proceeds to give him all of his dreams come true . . . which results in a “life of death.” Everything Prince Lionheart truly loves and cares about is destroyed or taken away. All because he got what he thought he wanted.
Note: This is not the same direction Coleridge took his Life-in-Death representation. They are thematically similar, but not the same. I absolutely urge a study of Coleridge’s work! I believe he himself may have gotten the Lady Life-in-Death’s name from St. Augustine’s Confessions:
Still, dust and ashes as I am, allow me to speak before thy mercy. Allow me to speak, for, behold, it is to thy mercy that I speak and not to a man who scorns me. Yet perhaps even thou mightest scorn me; but when thou dost turn and attend to me, thou wilt have mercy upon me. For what do I wish to say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came hither into this life-in-death. Or should I call it death-in-life? I do not know. And yet the consolations of thy mercy have sustained me from the very beginning . . .” (Chapter VI)
As for the Lady and the Dragon and their roles in the series . . . these will continue to be expanded upon over the course of many books. In fact, much more of their mythology will be revealed in Golden Daughter.
11.  In one word each, how would you describe each of the main characters of Shadow Hand?
Daylily: Repressed
Foxbrush: Doubtful
Lionheart: Conflicted
Sun Eagle: Possessed
Nidawi: Vengeful
Lioness: Protective
Eanrin: Angry
Imraldera: Confused
Lark: Tough
The Baron: Ambitious
The Baroness: Hopeful
Redman: Wise
Sight-of-Day: Strong
Felix: Bored . . . and then Not Bored At All (which is cheating, I know)

12.  As you wrote Shadow Hand, were there aspects of the story that took you by surprise?

I was surprised by how dark it was. I write by a detailed outline, so this shouldn’t have surprised me. But an outline is never the same as actual prose, so I was a bit taken aback as I watched the developing themes of Love and Blood play out before my eyes. There were several scenes that I wanted to skip over entirely at first, afraid they might be too dark. But after much prayer and searching, I decided to go back and write them in. And the story was much stronger as a result.

           13.  How do you think the main characters, Daylily and Foxbrush of Shadow Hand would react if he or she were introduced to you?

Daylily would be impeccably polite but probably uninterested. Foxbrush would be awkward, trying to impress me with intelligent conversation but making a hash of it along the way.

They would both like my husband, Rohan, tremendously, though. Rohan has a way of putting people at ease. And Foxbrush and Rohan would get caught up in a detailed, animated conversation about tea from Southlands vs. tea from Sri Lanka, and Foxbrush would forget his awkwardness while involved in this debate.

And my lover-boy cat, Marmaduke, would leap into Daylily’s arms and win her over with purrs. So ultimately, with the help of Rohan and Marmaduke, I think we’d have a successful visit.

14.  Can you tell us what are your current favourite movie(s), TV show(s), and/or book(s)? (Stress is on the currentJ!)

I am a big fan of both Doctor Who and Sherlock! As said previously, I’m not really a movie person. I prefer TV shows since there is always more room to flesh out storylines and character arcs. And those two are my current favourites. My favourite current books are anything by Sir Terry Pratchett and anything by Megan Whalen Turner. (I’m re-reading Sir Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series right now and am once more completely bowled over by the sheer genius of that man.)

15.  We love Eanrin to bits, - but because he gets the cake for being our favourite character, can you single out a favourite heroine in the series?

Well, there was a time I would have said Dame Imraldera/Starflower . . . but she has recently been replaced in my affections by Sairu, the heroine of my upcoming book 7, Golden Daughter. Sairu is just plain awesome. But I can’t say too much about her without spoilers, so I need to keep my mouth shut for now.
I also adore Lady Daylily, who turned into the most complicated and interesting of all my heroines. She’s a hard one for many people to love, but I think she’s an easy one to relate to. I know I deeply relate to her struggles and desires.
The other heroine who is often passed over but whom I really enjoyed writing was Lady Leta of Aiven. Definitely a girl after my own heart! My husband tells me I am an “independent people-pleaser,” which is a stressful combination when you think about it. Leta is that part of me, come to life on the page! She only gets a fairly small role in one book, but she will always be a favourite of mine.

16.  In offering advice to young authors when it comes to sharing their stories, do you advocate they pursue the traditional mainstream route of finding an agent, etc and waiting it out, or do you consider indi publishing a healthy alternative?

I always try to encourage the young writers in my life with this maxim: “It is not a race.
These days, indie publishing is a quick and easy way to get a quality-looking product out there to readers. But so many young writers think that just because they have finished a manuscript, they are ready to dive into the publishing world. And it might be true . . . but if it is true, then why not take the time to look into getting an agent? At least take a little time to put yourself out there, get some professional feedback, and continue to grow as a writer. The temptation is to dive head-first into a world that is huge, demanding, and extremely competitive.
But I ask you—Just because you can bake a fantastic pie, does that mean you’re ready to open a bakery? Or because you painted a lovely picture, are you ready to open a gallery?
This being said, I am a huge supporter of indie publishing. Many of the professional novelists I know are moving in that direction. I myself, after successfully launching an indie short last year, am pursuing indie in a big way. It’s a wonderful new opportunity for novelists out there!
I will also say here and now that I know talented novelists and short-story writers who, despite their talent, have not found agents or publishers for their work. This reflects not so much on the quality of their work as on current market trends. In such situations, indie publishing provides an excellent opening to get quality product out to readers who will thoroughly enjoy it.
But again, there’s a big difference between an experienced novelist making a carefully-calculated career move and a young writer with an unpolished manuscript jumping into a world for which she/he is unprepared.
That’s my two-cents. There are plenty of other opinions out there, however, and aspiring novelists should careful explore all options.

17.  I gather you recently have chosen to branch out on your own and initiated your own publishing firm. Can you tell us a little bit about Rooglewood Press and your hopes/plans for it?
Rooglewood Press started as an experiment. I had been hearing more and more about successful indie-publishing endeavours among the professional novelists with whom I am networked. So I wrote up a novella set in my Goldstone Wood world and (after getting permission from my publisher) launched it via my own imprint to see how it would do.
And I was very pleased by the results.
Rooglewood Press is now producing a variety of work, including many more upcoming Goldstone Wood novels and novellas, a historical fiction novel by my award-winning, bestselling novelist mother, Jill Stengl, and the exciting Five Glass Slippers Cinderella anthology. We were delighted with the number and quality of submissions sent in for the Five Glass Slippers writing contest, and are now gearing up for our next contest along a similar vein (featuring a different fairy tale). We are so excited about the enthusiasm surrounding these projects, and hope to see the contests grow each year. Rooglewood Press will not only provide a fantastic home for many established novelists but will also (we hope) prove an excellent launching pad for new novelists, getting new author names out to a broader reading public.

18.  What is your greatest ambition/hope for the series of Tales of Goldstone Wood? Can you tell us a bit about the new writing project(s) you’re working on now?

With the current rigorous schedule I’m under, my biggest ambition for the Tales of Goldstone Wood is simply to get the next project written. And then the next project after that . . . and then the one after that . . .
I am preparing to write book 8 in the series, the title of which is not yet released. This involves quite a lot of research . . . because yes, even fantasy novelists must research! It’s a rather large, complicated sort of work, so I expect this one to take me longer to write than some of the others.
I am also working very hard on getting Five Glass Slippers ready for publication in June . . . which is coming up very soon now!

19.  Out of the many beautiful themes and delightful plots, what would you most like your readers to take away with them from reading Shadow Hand?

As with all of my books, the ultimate theme at the core is one of “undeserved grace.” No matter who, no matter what, no matter how . . . there is grace offered. No one can earn it. No one can deserve it. But the Giver of Grace is able and mighty to save.

20.  In ending, do you have any special words of advice or something you would like to share with young authors as we learn the craft of writing?

The best writing advice is always this: Write, write, write. Read, read, read.
Writing is a skill that must be practiced and pursued. If you want to play a concerto, you must practice your scales. If you want to write a novel, you must practices those scenes and sentences.
I also encourage my writing students to think about what matters to them. Right now. What is the keenest desire on your heart? What is the biggest worry that you wake up thinking about each morning? Because those things that matter to you right now, if communicated into your fiction, will also matter to your readers. If you write a story that deals with the themes and ideas currently weighing on your heart, you will write a story that you love. And if you love it, readers will love it too.

Thank you so much, Anne Elisabeth, for taking the time to answer my many questions, it was wonderful to have you over on Fullness of Joy :). 
Now, pertaining to this giveaway, there are many entry options on the Rafflecopter, which you can select from to give you added bonus, so for starters, leave a comment below this post and you'll unlock the rest of the entries! The winner will receive any one of the 6 Tales of Goldstone Wood novels of his/her choice: Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, or Shadow Hand. This giveaway is open to international viewers.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

61 sweet note(s):

  1. Lovely interview, Joy and Anne Elisabeth! It's fascinating to learn more and more about this series; I like the themes/character arcs that I'm seeing in it, and look forward to reading some eventually. :)

    You said, Anne, that a lot of the character struggles in your story are made up of pieces of yourself. I find that to be true in my own writing. Do you have any counsel on making sure that you're not putting too much of your own personality in your books? After all, variety in characterizations is very important, and while I don't consciously decide to put my own personality into the characters, it tends to creep in in spite of me!

    Thanks for your answers to Joy's questions! They were inspiring to read. :)

    ~Schuyler

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    1. Thank you, Schuyler, I am glad you enjoyed this interview - I had a wonderful time reading Anne Elisabeth's responses :). Oh, and I love your question!!

      My favorite thing about Stengl's novels are definitely the themes and her in-depth characters. I would say though that with each book, one gets to witness her beautiful deftness in those two areas more than in the first book or so. :) God bless and thanks for participating, Schuyler - I look forward to your getting to read the series and your thoughts too!

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    1. You are welcome, Bound and Freed :). It is all thanks to Anne Elisabeth actually!

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  3. It's open to people from outside the US? Fantastic!

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    1. It sure is, Anonymous! Living outside the US myself I feel pretty excited about this being an international giveaway :). All thanks to Anne Elisabeth!

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  4. Ooops, supposed to ask Anne a question... How do you keep the characters and their timelines straight so that things between books don't conflict?

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    1. I have often wondered this too as I read each of her novels :)

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  5. I liked getting to see some topics that Anne has not been asked in other blogs. =D

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    1. I am glad about that, Courtney! I have read many interviews with authors and was disappointed at their natural repetitiveness, and how the authors are always asked the same things. So I tried to frame my questions to the ones I would personally ask her even if it was not an interview. Her answers are fabulous :).

      Thanks for participating!

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  6. Thank you so much for incorporating the Grace message into your stories. I love fantasy, but I love Jesus thousands of times more. So when the two come together...It just doesn't get any better!
    I agree, Lady Daylily is difficult to love - I can only hope she grows on me as I get further into the series.
    My Question: How many books do you plan to write?

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    1. That is why i love The Tales of Goldstone so much too, Lilian!

      Thank you for participating :)

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  7. Wow! Love these books! Such a great giveaway!!

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    1. I love them as well, Sarah! Thank you, i am glad you're all having fun with this giveaway!

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  8. Very interesting interview! I've just started reading Shadow Hand and I like it already - it was interesting to hear more about the development of it.

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    1. Thank you for participating :)

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  9. Thank you for taking the time to do this giveaway :) The only question I have at this moment is... Is this an ebook or paper version giveaway? :)

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    1. I am glad for the opportunity, and it is so wonderful asking Anne Elisabeth questions ;). This giveaway is for a paperback copy of any one novel in the series of the winner's choice :). Blessings!

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  10. What a fabulous interview! I'm having a late lunch at my desk, so glad I used the last few minutes to read this!

    My question is, do you think you'll always to series or do you have stand-alones in your mind somewhere? Do you see yourself ever writing another genre other than fantasy (not that I'm complaining, just curious!)?

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    1. I am glad you are enjoying this interview and giveaway, Beth. Thanks for participating!!

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  11. Really nice interview, Joy and Anne-Elizabeth! I've heard so much about this series. I'm really looking forward to begin reading them :)

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    1. Aww, thanks, Sarah! I am going to nag on you with lots of kitten eyes and hugs until you give in and read Anne Elisabeth's books :).

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  12. Oh, this is such a beautiful interview! I really enjoyed the unique questions. Especially concerning Daylilly and Eanrin over at Anne Elisabeth's house. And I think the books could be turned into accurate movies using the right techniques...hmmm, if only I was a movie-maker or could transport my ideas to some trustworthy director... :)

    Thanks so much!

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    1. Aw, thank you, Hannah! I am glad you liked these questions =). I endevoured to ask the questions I was actually INTERESTED in asking and not just the usual ones.

      Aha, I agree with you, though I think it WOULD be a challenge for any filmmaker. I confess i cannot imagine a book like Shadow Hand being made into a movie... But Dragonwitch would be amazing as would Veiled Rose and Moonblood on the big screen :).

      God bless and thanks for commenting!! :)

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  13. Firstly, you like sherlock!!!!!! Secondly, it is such a joy reading your books and learning about your writing process and I hope you never stop writing! Thirdly, you like doctor who!!!!!! Fourthly, I can't wait to meet your newest characters and when I actually have money will defiantly buy them! Lastly, my question is, how do you continuesly get inspirtation and energy for all your books?

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    1. Kathleen, i gave a little squeal as well when I first heard Anne Elisabeth is a fan of Sherlock!

      Thanks for participating :). Yes, that is a sure good question!

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  14. @Lady Bibliofile: Great question! I think the secret is making certain that you are using only a PIECE of yourself. Don't write the whole of you into any one character. Take a single, important part, a part of what makes you human and what makes your relatable. Then your imagination comes into play as you consider how that piece of you would alter, change, react under the unusual circumstances and with the specific influences your character faces in the story. This process will take you well on the way to writing a "universal" character--a real PERSON whom many people will be able to relate to. Not just a caricature with a few personality quirks. When I speak of taking "pieces of myself," I never mean my quirks. I mean the real heart of me. As I said with Daylily, the struggle with repression; with Foxbrush, the struggle with enormous responsibilities for which I don't feel qualified. For my character Prince Lionheart in a previous book, it was my tendency to justify my own actions, my own sins, no matter what. These are not personality traits. These are real issues of heart and character. These are universals.

    Ultimately, we are our own best resources for understanding humanity. But to really write well, we have to write honestly. And that can be difficult and even embarrassing. It's so much easier to write caricatures or great big, epic Heroes with a capital H . . . because they aren't us. And we know they aren't us. And our readers know they aren't us. These kinds of characters are masks; they aren't mirrors. To write real people is to be so much more vulnerable. Not everyone want to do that.

    But I definitely encourage writers to at least TRY it before settling for the stereotypes. (There are lots of different ways to write books and characters, though. I don't pretend to be an expert! These are simply my own experiences and findings.)

    Anyway, supper is ready, so I must dash! I will come back tomorrow to answer more of these great questions. Cheery bye! :)

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    1. Wow, that is food for thought and something I really want to work on more in my writing. Perhaps that is why your characters are especially memorable. Thanks, Anne Elisabeth!

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  15. This was fascinating and inspiring all at once. I'm even more intrigued by the Goldstone Wood tales and I WANY TO READ THEM!!! O.O Thank you for hosting the interview, Joy. It was very enjoyable to read. :)

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    1. YES, YES! You must read Goldstone Wood books, my dear Annie :). I am so happy you enjoyed this interview, dear. The inspirational part is all thanks to Anne Elisabeth :)

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  16. No questions. Love the Tales of Goldstone Wood!

    Caitlyn

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  17. @Anonymous: Keeping the timelines straight is a bit of an effort . . . but I've also been writing about these characters for so long, and they are all so REAL to me, so it's not as hard as you might think! I keep documents of notes, timelines, historical charts, etc. which I reference at need. But again, it's really not as hard as you might think when you're so deeply invested in this world as I am.

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  18. @Kailin: I plan to write as many books in this series as I get ideas for! Currently I have about 15 full-length novels in mind and quite a number of novellas and a few short stories as well. And I just had a fresh set of ideas that may develop into a small spin-off someday . . . So I could conceivably be writing Goldstone Wood stories for the rest of my career! (But I have end-goals in mind for all the major storylines already established, no worries.) :)

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    1. I cannot wait for more Goldstone Wood novels and novellas :)))

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  19. @Brittany C. This is a paperback giveaway . . . autographed with a cute little bookmark thrown in for good measure. :)

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  20. @Beth: While may of the stories in Goldstone Wood COULD be read as standalones, just by nature of being set in this world they will always feel connected to other stories. It's like our own history in that respect. Can you read about the Roaring Twenties without the shadow of the Great Depression looming in the back of your brain the whole while? :)

    And no, I can't imagine writing a genre other than fantasy. I'm not saying it's out of the question! But while I've toyed around with a few historical ideas, they always got better the moment I moved them into Goldstone Wood. I played around with a biblical fiction idea a couple of years ago . . . but ended up taking the bones of that idea (a retelling of the story of Joseph) and transferring it into GOLDEN DAUGHTER instead. You'll see when that book comes out--it is, surprisingly enough, a loose retelling of the biblical story. And it's a great example of what happens to me when I try to write outside of fantasy. :P

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    1. A retelling of Joseph!!! *gasps with deligjt* Joseph is one of my favorite Bible heroes and I always am awed by his story, inspired, touched and challenged. I am awfully eager to see the themes found in Golden Daughter!! November can't come soon enough :)

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  21. @Kathleen: I think the answer to your question is simply that this is how my brain is wired, so to speak. I was born to write stories, so my brain is constantly inventing them. And when I'm not feeling inventive myself, God always moves me to new creative invention. NOT writing would be like asking a musician not to play or sing . . . a musician may not always feel like making music, but music is in her blood.

    Energy now . . . energy is another story altogether! But God has provided me with a husband who reminds me that it's okay to say "no" now and then, a gifted organizer who helps me budget my time so that I don't burn out. I've recently had to force myself back into a more regular exercise routine as well, which helps a lot. I definitely do have my burnout times, though! I rarely get sick, but last year I ended bed-ridden-sick FIVE TIMES for two week stretches at a time! I couldn't keep going. But God used those times to inspire my imagination again, and I still managed to meet all my deadlines. Definitely trying to time-budget better this year--and so far no crazy sickness has struck, so here's hoping for good changes! :)

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    1. May God give you the health and strength to continue with the wonderful things you do and write! I shall keep you in my prayers :) - Isaiah 40!!

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  22. @Anne Elisabeth Stengl--Thank-you so much for your answer! The difference between caricatures and universal problems really helped clarify for me. I agree, writing honestly can be a very vulnerable feeling, but in the end it seems to produce a deeper, richer product that people connect with. Which is encouragement to keep writing that way! :)

    ~Schuyler

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  23. If you had to choose, which book was the most fun to write?

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  24. So glad I saw this interview. I've seen your books but have not read one. Now I'm really interested! My question is - what other christian fantasy series have you read?
    Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  25. I love her books so much! I have been so busy with school I feel like I am completely missing out on the party for her next book. Need to get back with it and see what is going on. I am excited about this next book and it has been on my reading list before I even knew the title!

    Your interview is lovely I really enjoy your questions. One thing about her books that I enjoy is that all her characters have good and bad qualities and what makes them the villain of the story is not their nature but their choices. This reminds me of life.

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comment, Elizabeth Grace, i am so glad you enjoyed this interview... Yes, i agree that is very much a distinct and special element of Stengl's novels. Thank you for participating!!

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  26. Lovely interview, Joy and Anne Elisabeth! And the giveaway is definitely the icing on the cake. As for a question, here 'tis: is there any possible way FIVE GLASS SLIPPERS can release earlier than stated? ...oh, dear, I've been asking the most impossible questions, haven't I? ;)

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    1. Thanks, dear Emily,I am pleased to see you're enjoying this interview/giveaway, but I have to thank Anne Elisabeth for that as she offered this special giveaway of her own accord, and added the special bonus that the winner can choose the book of his/her choice when I mentioned some of my readers are quite interested in the series :). I have to also say that it was through reading some interviews with her thati finally decided to give her novels a try :).

      *grins* I know ... It is so long to wait!! AAnd I am getting impatient for the release of Golden Daughter and Divan's Light too... It sure feels as if entering into a new fandom ;)

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  27. Great interview! It was very interesting! My question is about Eanrin and Imraldera...what's going on with them? I think they would be a great couple and it looked like you were going to have them get together but then they didn't. Is there something coming up in the future or is this going to be one of the couples that never is?

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    1. Please, they must end up together! But I think it is important to remember that in Shadow Hand their story is set long before many of the other books, so their relationship is still developing further. And obviously the *spoiler* death of Sun Eagle and the blindness of Eanrin will add complexity to their relationship in their future... (I so hope!!)

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  28. @The Wee Schobers -- I recommend the series for 12 and up. Readers a little older are going to catch more of the complexities of theme etc. But they are very clean stories (if a little scary at times) and totally appropriate for younger readers.

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  29. @Angelica McDonald: The most fun one to write? You know, probably GODDESS TITHE, the illustrated novella. It was so EASY compared to the rest of my books! GODDESS TITHE is only fourteen chapters, a fun little adventure, while the others are all over 100,000 words, some closer to 200,000. So that gets to be a LOT of work after a while. But GODDESS TITHE was just plain fun from beginning to end. :)

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  30. @Rachel Stark: Well, I've read and loved The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. And I adore all the works of George MacDonald, especially THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN and THE PRINCESS AND CURDIE (two books . . . does that count as a series?)

    Other than that, I haven't really read other Christian fantasy series . . . I'm a classics girl at heart, I suppose! But there are lots of exciting-looking new series out there for readers of the genre. Morgan Busse is writing quite an epic-looking series called Follower of the Word, and Serena Chase has written some exciting fairy tale retellings, starting with The Rynn and The Remedy. Both of those look like great reads, though I haven't personally tried them yet.

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  31. @Emily Chapman: Well, the Ebook version might release a little early! But the print copy has the official release date of June 14. Which isn't too long now, really!

    And it's now available for preorder . . . http://www.amazon.com/Five-Glass-Slippers-Elisabeth-Stengl/dp/0989447847/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397491341&sr=1-5&keywords=Five+Glass+Slippers

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  32. @Chelsea Johnson: Like Joy pointed out in her notes, do keep in mind that the events between Eanrin and Imraldera in SHADOW HAND took place quite a long time before the events of MOONBLOOD. There's a lot of development yet to go between those two characters, and we'll see where they end up! (But, just so you know, I am definitely rooting for them as a couple myself.) :)

    And I will say this regarding your *spoiler* too, Joy . . . did Sun Eagle actually die??? Because Lionheart glimpsed him in MOONBLOOD, and Sun Eagle was able to give the name beads into Lionheart's hand . . . So, you know . . . .

    *teasers*

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    1. What? He did not die...but he died with the melting bronze, didn't he? Oh! I remember now... but I must not have taken note when that happened in Moonblood. I must go and check that bit again :). If he is still alive..., well poor Eanrin!

      And suddenly I am wondering if we'll ever hear more of Lark - she is so sweet and had me crying at end for her !!

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  33. Thank you for your thoughts on aspiring authors. I have currently been working on a novel for four years now and a novella as well. I enjoy your books for their themes of love, sacrifice, and redemption which is also a big theme in mine. You've inspired me to convey more into my stories and not be afraid. And I have a question. How did the original idea for Goldstone Wood come about? I would enjoy Shadowhand.

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  34. First I would like to say that you are an amazing author and have inspired me to take my writing to a richer level. Thank you for your thoughts for aspiring authors. I have been writing one novel for four years now and I am itchy to finish it! I will definitely check out different things before diving in. And my question is where did your original idea for Goldstone Wood originate? I would enjoy Dragonwitch. Thank you! :)

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  35. I love her taste in authors. This was a great interview really enjoyed learning more about one of my new favorite authors!

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"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body..." ~Proverbs 16:24

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