Interview with Allison Reid, author of Journey to Aviad

Allison RekerIn conjuration with Dragon Knight Chronicles indie publishing services and the Journey to Avid tour I have the pleasure to interview the author Allison Reid.

Allison Reid is the author of the medieval fantasy Journey to Aviad.  Allison’s love for this genre was influenced by such great authors as C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and when at the age of 13 her family moved to Germany, its medieval beauty and history only inflamed this passion.  Journey to Aviad is Allison’s first published series. If you wish to know more about Allison you can check her website, as well as read a review of Journey to Aviad here.

Journey to AviadJourney to Aviad tells the tale of Elowyn, a young weavers daughter who senses something disturbing and unnatural about the fierce storms that besiege the city of Tyroc. She soon realizes that the storms are but a warning sign of much more frightening things yet to come.

Terrifying wolf-like creatures emerge from the depths of the wilderness at the bidding of a dark master. His name found only among the crumbling pages of ancient texts, the re-appearance of Alazoth and his Hounds is a dark omen for the people of Tyroc and beyond. Only legends remain of the heroes and prophets whose blood was shed ages ago to banish him into the abyss, which should have remained his prison for all time. How he has been released is a mystery, but all the old stories agree that death and destruction are sure to follow.

With the Hounds inching closer each day, the city of Tyroc caught up in religious and political turmoil, and her home life no less turbulent, Elowyn has nothing left to rely on but her meager courage and a budding faith in Aviad, the Creator. She and her sister, Morganne, set out on a remarkable journey that challenges everything they have ever known about themselves, the world, and the path that Aviad has laid out for them.

Down to it then..

What was your inspiration behind Journey to Aviad?

Believe it or not, a video game!  Many years ago, I played a multiplayer online fantasy roleplaying game.  I was a natural story builder, creating a whole mythology that could be tied to everyday activities in the game.  Over the years my characters and their stories became so involved and so real to me, I couldn’t just give them up.  When I quit the game, I wanted to keep them alive in some way, and so I started writing a new tale…one that preserved the essence of my characters and their histories.  I also felt called to give the story a deeper spiritual meaning.  Writing this series has been a journey of faith for me that is still ongoing.

How long do it take you to write the book?  What was the hardest part about writing it?

Journey to Aviad was years in the making, because it didn’t start out as an idea for a book.  It is the culmination of many short stories, roleplaying adventures, and character vignettes.  The hardest part about writing it was that I had to strip away all of the game elements and mythologies I had originally created.  I had to keep my characters and their stories intact while starting over with a whole new world, new plotline, and different history. Infusing Christian undertones into what had previously been a “pagan” story also proved quite challenging.  I had to do a lot of research, both historical and theological, to make sure that I got everything right.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Probably my behind-the-scenes obsession with details.  I spent many weeks figuring out the history of my world from the day of creation onward, including a timeline of critical events, people, writings, and narrative overviews of each age.  It is over 20 pages of information that I refer back to constantly as I write. There is just too much information for me to keep track of in my head, so this is how I manage it all.  Maybe when the series is complete, I will put together a book with nothing but all of my background “stuff” and extra little stories that didn’t make it into the books.

Additionally, even though this is a fantasy story, I wanted it to feel very real.  That meant knowing how my characters would have done everyday things; what they would have worn, eaten, and experienced in that era.  To that end, I did a lot of research on medieval daily life, hoping to transport my readers into a very different place and time.  My bookshelf at home is full of highlighted and dog-eared medieval history books.  I even put together a small database of medieval-era plants and what they were used for so I can do quick searches as needed.

Which writers inspire you?  If you could have one of them review your work which one would it be?

I can’t help it—I still love the original fantasy writers, Lewis, Tolkien, and Alexander.  Their vision and skill as writers, and thinkers, just amaze me.  I have deep respect for the lives they led and they continue to inspire me.  Obviously none of them are alive today, but I think I would be absolutely terrified to have any of them review my work.

I had a pretty intimidating writing professor in college—we always dreaded his critiques because he was very demanding and equally blunt.  He never held back.  He told me once that he had studied under Tolkien in England.  He went into Tolkien’s office one day with a paper, and Tolkien sat there with his feet propped up on the desk, eyes closed, while my professor read his lengthy paper out loud.  He didn’t even think Tolkien was listening, until he suddenly told him to stop reading, that he’d already made that point back on page five. Incredibly brilliant man who had intimidated even my formidable professor!  Perhaps Lewis or Alexander would be kinder critics, but I think their presence would, for me, be equally nerve-wracking.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I always start the writing process with an outline of every chapter, though sometimes that outline changes as the story grows. The outline keeps my plot, and key details, on track.  It also allows me better oversight for the entire series, so that everything connects and flows as one continuous story.

What is one of the most surprising things you have learned about yourself taking up the pen as they say?

Writing is definitely an inner journey for me, one that I need to continue on to keep myself centered. Experiencing life through the eyes of my characters forces me to confront my own feelings and beliefs in a way I never expected.  Even fantasy writing demands an honest heart, or it comes out dull and hollow.  Though I am initially the one who gave my characters life, they always grow to have a life of their own, teaching me amazing things in return.

What are your thoughts on bad reviews? How much stock do you put into them?

Bad reviews always sting of course.  My writing is an extension of my deepest self, so putting myself out there can leave me feeling pretty vulnerable.  But I always try to put my emotions aside and read reviews objectively.  Sometimes the reviewer has a good point that I can learn from; constructive criticism is always good.  At other times, I can tell they just didn’t understand, or they didn’t connect with something about me or the work itself.  Unfortunately there are also people who just enjoy preying on writers’ vulnerabilities.

Let’s face it—while there is always room for improvement, you can’t please everyone, and honestly I don’t think you should try.  If you cater too much to others’ opinions, you can lose your own unique style and voice.  It is important to find a balance.  Put out the very best manuscript you can, learn from your mistakes, and take the rest in stride.

If you could recommend a title from one of the books you have read recently what would that be?

I only wish I had time to read!  In my spare time I’m either researching for my current book, editing someone else’s work-in-progress, or finally getting some writing done!  Sometimes I find it very difficult to read other authors’ works when I’m in the midst of my own creative process.  The last thing I want is for their ideas or style to influence mine, even accidentally.  While I do feel some guilt about this, I also know that my writing has remained unique and true to my own voice, and hopefully in the end that is worth something.

A big thank you to Allison for taking the time to answer my questions.  If you are interested in purchasing Journey to Aviad you can pick your copy up now from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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