Interview with Joan Lightning

Hello, my Lovelies! It’s Monday once again, so of course you know what that means. Time for this week’s blog post! Today I interviewed fantasy author Joan Lightning. Joan is the author of Guardians of Reyth series, which I am currently reading book one of. So lets learn a bit about Joan and her books.

1. Tells us a bit about your books.

My Epic Fantasy serial – Guardians of Reyth came out of a challenge in a writing group in 2008. One of my friends on that site back then loved fantasy and role play, but mainstream fantasy is almost exclusively white. She’s a woman of colour and so she wrote a short scene with two characters she had created, and challenged people to write a short fantasy story with that as a starting point.

The brief was to write it with a view to potential role-playing. The scene involved an imprisoned dark lord entering the dream of a young sorceress and proposing that she should be his bride, mother of his children, and he would make her a goddess. The children would be able to free him from his imprisonment and they would rule the universe together.

Her response was an emphatic no. He then promised to drown her world in blood unless she changed her mind.  Tina also had an idea for a race of people with 7 gifts of power, but only 2 people had all 7. Those people would be the defenders of their world from the minions of the dark lord.

I took up the challenge and wrote the original short story (which eventually became most of part one of the first volume.) I won the contest, although I was the only entrant sooo—

After finishing, I had an idea where the story could continue so I decided to try and write more. I had never written anything other than short stories to that point, but the characters wanted to move on. So I decided to see where they would lead me. Four and a half years later I finished the book. Tina loved it and suggested I try to publish it.

The general storyline involves the dark lord – who calls himself Xian the Shadowbringer and isn’t really a god but does have power – sends his followers to invade the continent of Reyth as part of a plan to lure the Guardians to meet them in battle in a place where they can be wiped out by something that’s being prepared. (spoilers. The ‘secret weapon gets revealed next year in the last book’.)

I call it my adventure series with magic and muscles. It has courage, honour, faith, a smidgen of romance), self-sacrifice, some battles, deaths, strange creatures such as snow-ants, derstrals, a grinnet, even a sentient plant.  And a dragon in one book.

At the start, Crystu is a young Rykatu (she has all seven of the gifts of magic) with a reputation for being thoughtless, short-tempered, reckless, and sometimes destructive. She’s partnered with Tam – her Ponfour (friend, protector, advisor, possessing 3 of the strongest Gifts.) By the end of the whole story, she will have learned to command others as well as herself, and will be in overall command of the army for the last battle.

Tam begins as a bit stuffy. He’s pious, has never broken a rule in his life, but Crystu chose him anyway, because she discovered that he was more than his reputation. Over the course of the story, he learns how to break rules, when to stand up to commanders – even the king. He will have to break laws, do things he considers dishonourable – and do those things in public. He also turns out to have had his mischievous moments in childhood and kept one of his powers secret for years because he was afraid that revealing it would wreck his hopes of being a Ponfour.

Trerin is the third. He’s a practical joker, not given to deep thinking. He’s Ponfour to an older Sorcerer at the start of the story. He and Seldar are the first to discover the invasion. This eventually throws Trerin into the mainstream of events where he is forced work with Crystu and Tam and basically grow up a lot.

Why is it always so hard to describe your own book?

Themes include faith and the importance of personal choice.

2.      What has been the best part of creating your books world?

Probably, discovering that I actually could. That once I start writing, the stories seem to flow.

a.     The worst?

Putting on weight from all the time spent sitting on the sofa. Also neglecting the cat at times.

3. What advice would you give a new fantasy writer like myself?

I assume that you’ve already read a great deal of good fantasy or you wouldn’t want to write it. Keep reading as well as writing. Reread your favourites. Learn the rules of writing but learn when to ignore them. Most important of all – write the kind of stories that you enjoy reading.

4. What piece of literature has had the most influence on you? Why?

Probably Anne McCaffrey’s dragonbooks. I’ve loved them since I was a teen. I bought each one as soon as it was released. I think the reason I loved them was because they focus so much on the people. They aren’t ‘about’ dragons, they’re about people in a world that has dragons – and the dragons are people too.

5. Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

Heheh! I practice Kung Fu and Taichi. I have black belts in both. I spin wool, knit, crochet, naalbind (not very well in all cases, but I do it anyway.) I weave using pin looms. I run (10 half marathons and 2 marathons to date. 1 more marathon planned.) I also dabble in photography, bird-watching, art, and getting into arguments on Facebook. I’m trying to reduce my footprint on this planet by reducing plastic use and learning to forage and to preserve food and to grow my own. There are many things that interest me and I hope to keep trying new things.

By profession, I’m an archaeologist. I worked as a digger for years, but am now an office bod who produces the figures for client reports and publications.

6. How do you balance between writing and spending time with your family?

I am single and live alone. The closest of my family is a 2 hour drive away, so I generally only see them at Christmas and Easter, even when there isn’t a pandemic For me it’s more about balancing work and my other hobbies with writing. It frequently involves burning a candle at both ends as well as in the middle.

7. Tell us about the projects you have in the works?

I’m considering an idea around something mentioned in the main serial. It would involve short stories about a shapeshifter. I’ve made a start on it, but I do need to get Volume 7 – the final volume – finished next year.

I’ve also got an idea for a sequel.

And I have the start of something completely different about a lonely dragon.

8. Can you tell us about your writing process?

Generally, I write a page or two, get stuck, throw a problem at the characters, stop and do something else. Then when I walk to work the next day, and walk home later, I mull over the scene and work out what should happen next. Write that in the evening, get stuck, etc and repeat. With Guardians, I tended to let my characters work out how to get out of whatever mess I’d stuck them in the evening before. They were pretty good at doing the work for me and then all I had to do was write it down.

9. If you couldn’t write books, what would you want to do?

Run more, train more, knit and crochet more, do more photography. Read the Bible more.

I have a very inspiring example close to me, of what to do when everything you love is taken from you.

My sister.

In the course of the last two years, cancer has stopped her doing almost all the things she loved.

From being someone who loved long walks, she’s found herself confined to a wheelchair for a lot of the time, and can only manage short walks in pain with sticks. A teacher, she had to stop working at the job she loved.  A pianist, but for a while she also partially lost mobility in her hands as well as both legs so she couldn’t play the piano. She did regain that ability, although she’s no longer as dextrous as she was, but she plays again.

Soon, cancer will take her life as well. Sometime in the next few months.

She says that she’s going to do whatever she can do with the time she has left. She says she’s living not dying, and has never felt so alive in her life. She says to cherish your time and if you can’t do the things you want to do, then find something else to do with the people you love. She’s had her despair and her tears and she decided that she wasn’t going to waste what time she has left on such things any more. She will enjoy food, company, a good tv show, sitting in the sun, whatever she can.

I can only hope that I can meet the challenge as well, should something like that happen to me.

10.  Is there anything else you would like us to know that I haven’t asked about?

I’m probably on the spectrum. When I was a kid no-one really knew much about autism, so I was never diagnosed, but it seems to run in our family. Actually, to borrow a quote, it practically gallops. That means I can miss the obvious that others see and see the obvious that others miss. I can come across as rude or grumpy when I’m just being literal or exact. I argue as a way of understanding things (which can cause problems at times.) And if I don’t understand something, people think I’m arguing even when I’m just asking questions about it.

Thank you, Joan, for taking time out to do this interview. It was a pleasure. If you would like to know more about Joan or her books, here are her social media links.

Facebook page:- https://www.facebook.com/Tyreans

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lightning_pj/

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