Ashael Rising

An interview with author Shona Kinsella on the launch day of her new book

Today, I am posting an interview with Shona Kinsella, fellow Unbound author, whose book, Ashael Rising launches today. Firstly, congratulations Shona, I know how hard you must’ve worked to get to this point. I hope you are basking in a celebratory glow of achievement – you deserve it!

Shona has invented a whole world in which to set her book, I was interested to find out more about the way she approaches her writing, so I sent her some questions. There are links at the bottom to connect with Shona and find out more about her book.

Tell me about your writing trajectory, is this your first book? And what lead to you writing it?

It’s kind of a funny story. I have always loved books, for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, maybe 11 or 12, I outlined a series of books called the Unicorn Defenders and sent my outline to some publishers. I was surprised by how many responded – some with handwritten notes added to the form rejection. Anyway, life got in the way as it so often does, I got a bad mark on some writing I did in higher English which knocked my confidence and I stopped writing for years. Writing a book was still the first item on my bucket list though.

Fast forward to 2014. After the birth of my second child I took a career break to look after my children. I was joking with my husband about what I was going to do with all this free time I would have and he suggested that I could write a book. Well it was a throwaway comment but I couldn’t get it out of my head so I decided to give it a go. I sat down at my computer one day with nothing but an image from a dream that had stuck in my mind and from that came Ashael Rising.

In Ashael Rising, is your primary focus on the story? Or the language? What, if you had to break it down, is the key focus of your writing?

My primary focus is definitely story. There are a few points where I think I’ve managed to pull off a nice turn of phrase and I have endeavoured to use language in an elegant way but at the end of the day, without story the language would have no point.

What changed in your life when a) you began writing Ashael Rising b) you began fund raising on Unbound and c) (if you have had enough time to notice!) once you had reached your target?

When I began writing Ashael Rising I think my world both narrowed and expanded. At first I didn’t tell many people that I was writing it. I wasn’t entirely sure that I could do it; that I would have the stamina to see it through or the skill to keep track of it all. Very quickly I became immersed in it. Other things, other interests, fell away as more and more of free time was spent writing or studying writing or listening to podcasts about writing… so my world narrowed. I joined an online critique group called Scribophile and found this amazing community of writers, all supporting each other and driving each other forward. I started thinking about things like diversity and representation in writing. I started thinking about how writing could do some good… so my world expanded.

Crowdfunding was a whole new ball game! I thought I was ready for it but I totally wasn’t. I had to establish a social media presence – something I’ve been avoiding for years. I’m an introvert by nature so it’s really difficult for me to promote myself and my work, start conversations, make connections etc. I suspect that’s probably true of many writers. So I had to learn a whole new skill set. Plus, a few weeks after the campaign started I found out I was pregnant with our third child and I left my day job for good so a lot was going on in my personal life too.

When I reached my funding target and started the editorial stage of the process, I started to feel like a real writer, less of a fake. It’s been a crazy whirlwind time. It’s been a little less than a year since I pitched to Unbound on Twitter and now Ashael Rising is being released. Sometimes it still all seems like a dream.

What would be the compliment of your book that you would most like to hear?

When’s book two coming out? I think that would be the best thing – knowing that someone enjoyed it enough that they want to keep reading. Mostly I want to make people feel something.

And what criticism do you most fear? (you can leave this one out if you like!)

Oh, that’s hard. There are so many things I’m scared of! I guess the one that would bother me the most would be if people thought my characters were flat or uninteresting.

When you invent names, do you have a strategy or do you fish until you find one that sounds right?

The main characters mostly sprang into my head fully formed, names attached so I didn’t really invent them. After that, my main strategy was to look at the linguistic root. I have several cultures in the book so each culture has names that share a linguistic root. So, Ashael’s people, the Folk, largely have names with Gaelic roots, or at least a Gaelic sound. The Agnikant have names rooted in India and the middle east, the Zanthar are more Eastern European. Despite hours of research and fishing about, I never did settle on a name I like for the main antagonist.

Is there significance in the fact that Ashael is an apprentice? 

Well, I think it comes from two separate places. First, the story of the apprentice coming into their powers is a fairly common trope in fantasy. It’s useful because it gives you a textual way to explain the magic system without having big chunks of exposition. Also, there are a lot of different ways you can use the student-teacher relationship within your story. Ashael’s apprenticeship gives her the tools she needs to begin to understand what’s happening, without having her being limited or blinkered by years of training.

The second thing is that Ashael is, in a lot of ways, me. Except she’s way cooler than me! I view myself as something of an apprentice writer, still learning my craft, so I think it was natural for Ashael to reflect that.

Is she a healer because she has visions or does her ability to see beyond the immediate develop with her healing and spiritual training?

Hmmm I can’t say too much about this because *spoilers* but the visions are separate from the healing and it does develop over the course of the story along with other abilities.

If you were forced by the literary police to re-set your book in a time and place that is a known part of human history, a) could you do it? and b) where and when would it be?

The setting for Ashael Rising is an idealized version of the days when humans were still hunter-gatherers so I guess it would be in the stone age. Several elements of life as depicted in Oak Cam are based on anthropological findings from that time period. I’m not certain how the land masses at that time would tally with the fairly temperate climate of the book though.

And finally, what are you going to do next?

I have three projects lined up for this year. I’ll be writing for, and editing, an anthology by Unbound authors in which all of the stories will be linked with a library. I’m really excited about this project. I’ll be working with some very talented writers indeed.

I’m also planning to finish a novella that I started writing in November, called The Longest Night. It’s a story set in a (secondary world) equivalent to the arctic. After enduring the difficulties of 2 months of night at midwinter, resources are already greatly depleted and tribe members are falling ill when the sun fails to rise. Banished by his people, Ukiuk sets out across the ice to find the sun.

When I complete the first draft of the novella, I plan to start work on the sequel to Ashael Rising which has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while now.

I’ll also be continuing to write flash fiction which is available on Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/shonakinsella

You can connect with me at:

My blog: www.shonakinsella.com

Twitter: @shona_kinsella

Instagram: shona.kinsella

And on Facebook.

Ashael Rising is available to order here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashael-Rising-Vessel-KalaDene-Book-ebook/dp/B01MRCASMU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486226054&sr=8-1&keywords=ashael+rising