It’s The Wizard’s Son. It came out last November.
It’s the first of what I hope will be a series of fantasy novels set on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere in the medieval period. The stories are mostly set in a Dukedom called the Northlands, a part of the Norman Empire that roughly covers the north-eastern U.S.
The Wizard’s Son is about a boy named Orlan whose mother dies when he is 8 years old. His father, the wizard Lord Redmantyl, arrives then to accept responsibility for the child even though this is something wizards aren’t supposed to do. Things like family obligations and long-term, close relationships distract them from their magic, which should be the sole focus of their lives. In spite of this, Redmantyl takes Orlan home to his castle and raises him to be a nobleman and a wizard himself. He also puts a spell on the child to help him forget his life before the castle.
Years later, when he is near the end of the first stage of his strict training as a magician, grown-up Orlan travels out into the world by himself for the first time. In the city of Storm Port, he begins to recall his early childhood in another city, what his life was like before his father claimed him, and how his mother died. He begins to rebel against all the strictures of his training–takes up with a wild set of city youths, drinks too much, gets into some rowdy situations. He’s helped in this by an old enemy of his father whom he sees as a friend, but who is using him as a means of revenge against the wizard. Eventually, everything comes to an explosive head when Redmantyl comes to Stormed Port to take his son back. It’s partly a coming-of-age story; Orlan learns how to be more than “the wizard’s son,” and also that his own magical powers bear greater responsibilities than he was aware of as an innocent apprentice.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m from Ohio, originally–the Cleveland suburbs; I grew up there and went to Kent State University for a semester or two. Since then, I’ve lived in Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, and the U.K. I have my BA and MA in English lit. I live just outside Washington D.C. and I have two cats, Austen and Lucia.
What inspired you to write this book?
I began working on this novel in grad school, when I was taking courses in Old English and medieval lit. In my first versions of the story, I used a lot of proper names and other words that were a sort of amalgamation of Old or Middle English and medieval French, as if the two countries and their languages had never become separate; the Norman Empire contains both. A lot of that has been edited out since to make the story easier to read, although I’ve tried to keep just a little taste of it in some of the names.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
My book was published by Wapshott Press. I had written book reviews and a few articles for an online zine, the editor of which later founded Wapshott. We’ve been friends online for years. I contributed a couple of short stories to anthologies she published, set in the same alt-history universe as “The Wizard’s Son” and using some of the same characters. When she asked if I had anything else, I submitted “The Wizard’s Son” for consideration–and she loved it!
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My mom says that I used to tell her bedtime stories.
I began to write seriously with an eye toward publication in my early twenties. I wrote some historical novels and contemporary dramas that are now lost or up in a box in the attic. Then I decided to try a fantasy novel.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
For me, it’s getting a plot worked out. I start with an idea for the beginning of a story and then jump to the ending. These are the easiest parts to write. I have some vague plan of how to get from one to the other, and it’s usually a matter of plausibly filling in all the “something happens” steps to get the story fully written. Making a list of events usually helps me through this process: 1. 2. 3. While I’m doing this, the ideas to support each event will begin to fill themselves out–scenes, scraps of conversations, thematic hooks to be planted. When that begins to happen, writing the story can become easy again as long as I don’t trip on a missing step. Getting from the first step to the last is the hard part.
How do you do research for your books?
Since I’ve been writing fantasy and have built my own world, I’ve had to create a lot of my own reference materials. I’ve drawn maps, outlined important points in recent alt-world history and made genealogical trees of Norman Emperors and their families (although where exactly they diverge from the historical Plantagenets is deliberately left vague).
Having a background and interest in real history helps, of course, but I’m not deeply concerned with historical verisimilitude. This is a world with magic, after all! And I still have my textbooks on Old and Middle English to use to make up proper names.
What are you reading now?
The Ambassadors, by Henry James.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite author is Jane Austen. I also like Edith Wharton, E.M. Forster, E.F Benson and Elizabeth Gaskell.
I also read a lot of classic murder mysteries–Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout.
Something that a lot of the above, and a lot of my other favorite stories, have in common is a sense of a small communities and their internal interactions.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I just sent my second book to my publisher about a month ago, the second in the series. It’s about the wizard’s niece, Laurel, who had a small part in Orlan’s story. Like Orlan, she will find the responsibilities of her magic difficult to handle.
We’re still considering the title, but hope to have the book out next spring.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Keep writing, and don’t worry about the publishing. Even in no one but a few friends see what you’re working on, it’s still good practice and anyone can stand the chance to improve their writing skills.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?