Today we have Ms. Joanna Hall here to tell us about her new fantasy novel “Art of Forgetting”. I’ve read it and if you enjoy high adventure fantasty then this is for you. The main character is a bit different than other fantasy characters. But I’ll leave it to Ms. Hall to fill you in on that. Take it away Joanne.
Before we delve into the interview tell us a little bit about your book. Give us a bit about the plot.
Rhodri is a foundling who believes his unique, perfect memory has him destined for greater things than life in the one-horse village of Pencarith. When an elite cavalry regiment passes through the town, he joins them and travels to Northpoint, a city on the coast that happens to be the ancestral home of his long-lost father. While he searches for his parents, Rhodri finds friendship, and more, among the King’s Third. But the past comes back to haunt him, and it’s not the way he remembers it…
What inspired you to write this book? Was it an idea you had for a long time?
When I wrote the final volume of my New Kingdom trilogy, “The Eagle of the Kingdom,” there was one very significant thread left hanging at the end. “The Art of Forgetting” is me picking up that thread and resolving it. So yes, I had wanted to finish Rhodri’s story for a long time. I’d been writing another book at the time, but “Art of Forgetting” ambushed me one day and wouldn’t let me go until I’d finished it!
In your book Rhodri is a bit different from what we normally see in traditional fantasies, because he’s Bisexual there are other LBGT themes. This has caused a few negative reviews on Amazon. When you started this book did you set out to make LBGT characters or was more organic and you thought, “Hey this is just who these people happen to be.” ?
I should say first off that I didn’t set out to write an “issues” book, and it had never occurred to me that though there are a decent amount of gay and lesbian characters in fantasy, there still aren’t many bisexual characters, even now. I was just writing the story I wanted to write. I’m an inveterate punster and when some characters in the story turned out to be LGBT, I just kind of shrugged and went “ok then, if that’s the way you are I can go along with that!” I always know some of my characters are going to be non-straight, because it wouldn’t be a realistic world if they weren’t, just as it wouldn’t be a realistic world if everyone was white. But I didn’t want the book to be about Rhodri’s sexuality, I wanted it to be about his journey, and the fact that he’s bisexual doesn’t have that much bearing on the plot. It’s just something he happens to be.
Are you surprised at some of the backlash?
Not massively. I’m surprised at some of the actual comments on Amazon.com, but I was expecting that some people wouldn’t like it for whatever reason. Not everyone is going to like a given book.
I’m mildly surprised most of the criticism has focused on the sexuality of the characters, rather than the prolific swearing! There’s a lot more, and more explicit, straight sex in the book that no one has raised any objection to, so I can only assume it’s the fact that there are LGBT people in the book that people don’t like, rather than what they get up to!
The harshest criticism has come from Americans. The reviews on Amazon.co.uk have been universally positive, so maybe it’s a cultural thing. It certainly hasn’t put me off writing about alternate sexualities, but it has been a bit of an eye-opener!
In my opinion, another thing that sets your book apart from a lot of fantasies is that there isn’t an overabundance of fairies, trolls, unicorn, and such. There are some, but it’s not a big portion of your book. Was this a conscious decision?
Sort of. While I like to read all kinds of fantasy (I’m reading one of R J Anderson’s Fairy books at the moment, it’s very good), the stuff I really like is, not Grimdark as such, but a bit more grounded in reality. I love David Gemmell, I love Joe Abercrombie, Juliet McKenna, stuff like that. I don’t think there needs to be a troll under every bridge (though there is a rather nasty creature in Art of Forgetting, and yes, it does live under a bridge… ) But the book I wrote after Art of Forgetting is full of mages and demons and weird magic, so I guess it depends on the book!
Were there any inspirations for your characters or did you just make them up out of thin air?
They’re all a bit of me, and a bit less of everyone I know, all smooshed together. Personality comes first, and then what the characters look like comes out more organically in the writing. Once I’m at that stage I start looking out for famous people who look like the characters, and I print out pictures and pin them up all around me while I’m writing – it’s very *ahem* “inspirational” to have someone pretty to look at when you’re writing!
On writing: are you an outliner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants gal or a little of both?
Most of the time I’m a complete pantser. I usually know how a book is going to end, and two or three important things that have to happen in the middle, but apart from that I tend to just make it up as I go along. Sometimes if I get bogged down I find it helpful to write a very brief plan for the next few scenes just to get me back on track. I find if I plan too much it takes the fun and spontaneity out of it!
Do you have a playlist? If so what’s your favorite songs to listen to now?
I usually do by the time I’ve finished the book (weirdly, I don’t have one for the book I’m currently writing, but I might end up with one while I’m editing – the only song I have on repeat for this one is “Summersong” by The Decemberists. And the new Manics album, but that’s because I’m a huge Manics fan, nothing to do with the writing!) I had a massive playlist for “Art of Forgetting” – the playlist for “Rider” was a lot more rocky and angry, while the one for the second volume, “Nomad” which is due out next April, is quieter and more introspective. You can definitely hear the point where the second book starts!
I don’t listen to a lot of music with lyrics while I’m writing, because I find I’m listening to the lyrics and not paying attention to what I’m doing, but I do listen to a lot of film soundtracks and I find that gets me in the right mood.
I actually put the playlist for Rider up on Spotify, if anyone wants to hear it :
BAT FOR LASHES – PEARL’S DREAM
THE CURE – A FOREST
SMASHING PUMPKINS – DISARM
SUZANNE VEGA – MARLENE ON THE WALL
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – NO ONE KNOWS
30 SECONDS TO MARS – THE KILL
SCISSOR SISTERS – THE OTHER SIDE
THERAPY – TRIGGER INSIDE
BLOOD RED SHOES – I WISH I WAS SOMEONE BETTER
AUDIOSLAVE – SHOW ME HOW TO LIVE
BRITISH SEA POWER – REMEMBER ME
EDITORS – BLOOD
BIFFY CLYRO – THE CAPTAIN
ADMIRAL FREEBIE – RAGS AND RUN
SPIRITUALISED – STAY WITH ME
THE CHARLATANS – TRUST IN DESIRE
TINDERSTICKS – TRAVELLIN’ LIGHT
STONE ROSES – LOVE SPREADS
BAT FOR LASHES – HORSE AND I
I worked in a record shop for eight years, I love all sorts of music!
When you’re not writing or planning BristolCon, what do you like doing?
Ah, with that elusive “free time” stuff? I spend a lot of time reading, console gaming, listening to music and grubbing through second hand record shops looking for good stuff, photography, and my partner and I recently adopted a two-year-old rescue greyhound, so playing with and walking her takes up quite a bit of time now! (I say that, for the whole time I’ve been writing this she’s been asleep on a blanket under the window, so it’s not exactly strenuous…)
Do you have any other nerdy projects in the works (knitting, macramé, cat pedicures)?
I’m not very crafty; I guess BristolCon is my big nerdy project. I like to collect nerds and introduce them to other nerds; as well as chairing BristolCon I also run the Bristol Fantasy and SF Society Facebook Group and I help out with Fringe events for BristolCon – readings and bookshop signings, that kind of thing.
Okay, it’s time for the time for the Nerdy Lightning Round. I’ll give you two things and as quickly as possible you must chose one or the other. Don’t over think it. Just go with your gut reaction. Are you ready?
Unicorn or Pegasus – Unicorn
Kitana or Cutlass – Cutlass
Chocolate or Vanilla – Chocolate
Epic Battles or Hand to Hand Combat – Hand to Hand combat
Elf or Dwarf – Dwarf
Mages or Oracle – Mages
Before you leave us let us know where we can cyberstalk you.