Welcome everybody! Today I’m hosting Anne Barwell, and she has consented to answer some questions for us, so let’s get started. I’m so happy you’re here, Anne!
Thanks for hosting me today, Kayleigh.
It’s my pleasure. I really enjoy getting to know other authors, so I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Let’s getting started with just… talking. Some of us do lots of it and some of us are a bit shy. Quite a few writers are are introverts and get their energy from solitude, which is helpful since writing is usually a solitary pursuit. Are you the kind of writer who can be alone and keep going for hours, or do you get worn out from being in your head for long periods and having to deal with all the drama on the page?
I always have music playing in the background when I write. I don’t mind the solitary thing so much, but I find I need to get up from the keyboard and stretch, or I get stiff shoulders, so I can’t sit and write for hours. Because of that I plan breaks every hour of so – usually something like housework, baking, or something else that needs doing. Weekdays aren’t an issue as I write for an hour then need to get organized to go to work. Unfortunately that often means I just get into the story, and doing… horr….nice…things to my characters when it’s time to leave.
Lol. Horr… nice things? No, horrible only! We must make them suffer, so their reward of a happy ending will be all the sweeter. Honestly, though, I hate making my characters suffer, but I love forcing them to change and grow. They all have a flaw—or many flaws. The books I love most put their characters through the ringer. I want you to think of a favorite book for a moment. If you’ve ever read Fahrenheit 451, you know the scene at the end of the story where everybody is memorizing a book to save for the future. I used to wonder what book I’d memorize. What book would you memorize to save for posterity, and why that one?
I love Fahrenheit 451and studied it at uni. It would be really hard to choose a book to memorise, but I think it would have to be The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper as that’s the book/series that really got me into fantasy. I love it and re-read it every so often. It’s also the story that got me hooked on Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology.
If I couldn’t choose a book, I’d have to go for poetry. Either one of the romantics as I have a soft spot for them, especially Bryon, or a poem of Tennyson’s.
Oh, cool. Byron’s one of my ancestors. My heritage is primarily Scots-Irish and German, so when I choose a pen name I went with something that reminded me of that: Kayleigh (Irish) and Sky, a variant spelling of Skye (Scottish). I like that the name represents me, but also provides a bit of a remove from my real-life personality. I tend to think of Kayleigh as my alter ego, lol. As a writer, what would you choose—avatar, famous person, cartoon character—to represent you?
I use a pen name – although it’s different from the one I use every day, it’s still legally my name. It gives me a bit of distance between my writing and other life, although it’s not exactly a super secret identity as everyone knows it’s me, and often use either/or to introduce me to others. I don’t tend to put my photo out on the internet much though for two reasons. I’m never fussed on the photos taken of me—although one of my daughters tags me by my author name on FB when she takes photos so that’s working well. Not. Also, I work in a library so having my photo on the back of my books would be a little problematic. So instead I use Augustus the plushy dragon as my avatar. It works well, as I’m a huge fantasy fan and love writing and reading about dragons.
That is too cute, but while we’re on the subject of names, I’m curious if you need to know your characters’ names before you start writing?
Yes, and placeholder names don’t work. It has to be the ‘right’ name. Some characters turn up with names, and others I need to find. I have a baby name book, and another with NZ surnames, but also use a site that has both first names and surnames called Behind the Name – https://www.behindthename.com/
I’m the same way. I’ve occasionally thought I’ve found a name for my characters only to realize when that character wasn’t really developing that I had the name wrong. I don’t why that matters so much, but for me the name is very important. This is a total non sequitur, but I’m wondering if you write alone or in public?
I write alone as I tend to write at home when I have the house to myself. I know of a few writers who use libraries, but as I work in one, that doesn’t work for me. I’ve handwritten stories in cafes and on airplanes but only very short snippets. Although in saying that, I often have a chat programme open and am holding a conversation while I write, with a warning that I might go quiet depending on when the characters take over my keyboard.
Wow, that’s interesting, but I guess it’s a little bit like writing out in public, unlike me who usually writes buried by my two cats. Who are your real-life writing companions? Dogs or cats? You have animals, I hope since I’m asking you that.
I have two cats, Kaylee and Frappy. Kaylee is a long haired Tortie and Fraps is a short haired ginger tabby. They’re good company but if I spend too long on the computer without giving them the attention they feel they deserve I hear about it. Fraps has snuck into one of my books—in a secret identity of course—and everyone who knows her recognized her immediately.
Ha ha ha! Let’s talk about your books. I know you have a blurb and excerpt for us, so I want to get to that right now. Keep reading, guys! Teasers and buy links below.
A Knight to Remember – Dragons of Astria #1
I’m sharing this story, as its sequel is my WIP for the latter part of this year. It’s been too long since book one came out, and the characters are not impressed. I blame the vampires.
“The last of your line will be in the embrace of a dragon.”
Aric, Crown Prince of Astria, has been brought up to believe that all dragons are evil. But when he speaks with one, he finds himself questioning those beliefs. The dragon tells him to find a sword in Sherwin Forest to save not only his kingdom but also his sister, Georgia, who must otherwise wed the prince of a neighboring kingdom.
At the start of his quest, Aric dons a disguise and meets Denys, an archer and herbalist who lives alone at the edge of the forest. Denys agrees to guide Aric into the forest, but then Georgia appears, revealing Aric’s true identity.
However Aric learns he is not the only one keeping secrets. Denys has a few of his own that could change both of their lives forever.
“You said you had something to tell me.” Aric cleared his throat, not wishing to reminiscence about such things, at least not now. He was losing his mind, he must be. This was a dream, it had to be. Yet why did it feel so real? “And my name is not Brandric. It’s Aric. Brandric is what my father calls me.”
“Aric, then.” The dragon inclined its head again, lowering its voice. “Your sister is to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom. This must not be allowed to happen. It will not unite your kingdoms, but is merely a ploy to gain your father’s trust.”
“I already know that.” Aric had heard two of King Malachite’s men talking. Once the marriage had taken place, King Malachite planned to invade Astria and claim it in the name of Logan, his own kingdom. “He… they talked about using magic.” Aric had told his father about what he’d overheard, but he hadn’t been believed. King Malachite, King Brandr assured his son, would not attempt to betray Astria by using the evil that was magic. Nor would he use their children’s marriage to gain control over Astria. He was an honorable man who had stood by Astria and its people many times, their armies united against a common foe. Together they had triumphed over those who might use magic against them, and worked to rid both their lands of the threat of dragons.
Aric had never trusted King Malachite. There was something about the man that made his skin crawl, but if asked to explain, he couldn’t. Only two people had ever believed him: Georgia and Aunt Hannah.
“The only way to fight magic is with magic.” The dragon looked around, then cocked its head to the side as though listening to something Aric could not hear. “You must seek the Sword of Sherwin, Aric. The quest will not only save your kingdom, but also your sister.”
“I….” Aric stared at the dragon. He’d heard of the sword, of course he had. It was an old tale told to him by both his aunt and his mother. The sword was a thing of power. “It doesn’t exist. It’s just a story. Or if it did, it was lost generations ago.” He shook his head. Surely the dragon couldn’t be serious?
“Then it is time it was found again, isn’t it?”
“You make it sound simple. It’s not.” Aric looked up at the dragon. Its eyes were the same color as its scales. They seemed to bore into his own, searching his heart, and his soul. There was something ageless about it, powerful yet lonely. He shivered, and averted his gaze.
“You see what others don’t, young Aric.” The dragon opened its wings. Aric gasped. They were the length of several men, black cobwebs of fine leather and scale. “Follow your heart, and trust your instincts.”
“But I don’t know where to look.” Aric wanted to believe the dragon, he truly did. Georgia couldn’t be allowed to marry Prince Thorold, and Aric could not stand by and let his kingdom fall. Killing dragons had only been part of the oath he’d taken. He might not intend to keep that part of it, but he certainly would keep the other.
The dragon had already begun to flap its wings. It was preparing to leave, and Aric knew once it took flight he’d never be able to stop it. “Follow your heart, Aric. Do what is right.”
Aric stumbled back, his sword falling to the ground. He couldn’t kill the dragon, but more than that, he didn’t want to. “I don’t know where to look,” he yelled after it. The dragon did not reply but instead took to the air, gliding, hovering above him, its movement graceful, majestic. Something about it called to him, touched him.
He wiped at his eyes. They were wet.
When he looked up again, the dragon was gone.
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.