I thought I'd try something a little different with my blog. I want to highlight some of the wonderful authors I've had the opportunity to work with and narrate for. Today, I'm chatting with R. K. Thorne. She's created a wonderful fantasy series with strong female and male characters, a dimensional world, and a plot that sucks you in. I had the honor of narrating the first book in the series THE MAGE SLAVE, and will start work on MAGE STRIKE later next month.
R. K. Thorne
1) How did you get the idea for MAGE SLAVE and The Enslaved Chronicles?
I struggled for a long time to finish a novel, literally almost two decades across different projects. I had a lot of obstacles, but eventually I was sick of myself not finishing something. I went to a writing workshop Orson Scott Card ran for two days one summer. As part of the workshop, he made some key suggestions. The first was to just forget every writing rule you’d ever learned and just focus on a character and their struggle. That’s it. And the second suggestion was to get an index card and write a single sentence that would summarize the story you were going to tell. Which, as it turns out, was really hard for me. I wrote a lot of really bad ones. I’d say the only good one that came out of that exercise was the beginnings of what would become MAGE SLAVE. I started tackling the book in earnest that fall during Nanowrimo.
Between summer and fall, I worked on the characters and the world building. I read this random news article about a royal family, I think it was British but I’m not sure. The story talked about how isolating monarchy could be and described one historical prince actually listening through walls and floorboards, so that he could hear the normal conversations of normal people. That isolation was both bizarre and logical to me, and it also was an interesting and realistic side of royalty that isn’t a super common trope. (Except for maybe when princesses get locked in towers to safeguard their virginity, but I digress.) So I thought this idea of isolation could be an interesting thing to build a character around. What would it be like to be so isolated? How might you escape? Could you? Was the isolation even real or just in your head?
Those themes play a huge part in MAGE SLAVE, where my isolated and somewhat naïve prince gets kidnapped and actually finds that himself more free while an actual captive than he was in his own life. Some reader reviews have commented on this, and it makes me so happy to see people get it.
Themes of freedom in various forms play a central role in the story. Another idea I wanted to play with was how sometimes people use guilt to manipulate us, and how bizarre the results of that can be. In the world of the Enslaved Chronicles, significantly more powerful people have been enslaved by those less powerful but more corrupt than them, in part due to fear and in part due to their own guilt. (I’m working on a prequel of how it all went down.) And this is funny because sometimes people start to think or say, hey, that’s kind of implausible, why would they submit to that? But then we can look at the world around us and see examples of it every day.
2) In building this world, what challenges did you encounter? What about it was exciting?
I struggled with a lot of things from a craft and mindset perspective: perfectionism, a sloggy middle, endless revisions, a much too slow start. (About the first 2-3 chapters were cut from the first draft.) Ironically, while I was so focused on the ending, it was the only part of the rough draft that didn’t need serious work.
Because this is a secondary world fantasy (as in, a world that is not historically-based or supposed to be Earth) world-building is frankly a lot easier! I also think creating secondary worlds inspired by our world but different is more exciting. There’s more room to be creative. I study a lot of history to inform my worlds, but I don’t have to limit it to the history of one or two nations or just the Europe of the Middle Ages. In fact, ultimately, Akaria and the world of the Enslaved Chronicles are inspired by Viking and ancient Greek culture, with some dashes of 1400s - 1500s Hungary and Italy thrown in there. For example, it is not a feudalistic society, which I can’t get excited about writing about. Akaria more of a federation, technically. That is commonly thought of as a more modern governmental structure, but it did actually predate feudalism in a few places around the globe.
And now I’ve totally gone off an a history geek tangent. ^_^ But suffice to say – digging into all that nerdiness is at least 50% of what makes building this world exciting for me!
The other 50% is dropping the characters into the maelstrom and seeing the sparks fly. ;)
3) MAGE SLAVE is now available in audio, narrated by Tanya Eby. How was that process for you? Anything you’ve learned about your own writing by listening to the audio?
I analyzed to death what approach to take to get MAGE SLAVE to audio, and I am really satisfied with the route I chose. Working with Tanya has been amazing! I had heard from some people that independently publishing an audio book could take a lot of time, but I was pleasantly surprised that it took nowhere near as long as I thought it would. The mostly time-consuming thing was reviewing auditions and listening to the proof. Ultimately, as I am not an audio book reader, I enlisted the help of my awesome editor Elizabeth and one of my great writer friends Sherrie to listen to my top audition favorites. Luckily for me, they both picked my favorite (you – Tanya!). I was lucky to have their help because I was going crazy. ;)
I did learn some things about my writing, both good and bad. I actually found it very difficult to listen to my own work and was constantly blushing or yelling at myself aloud. =) But then I would get caught up in the story and think, oh, hey, this actually isn’t half bad. I am entertained. ;)
By the time, I was listening to MAGE SLAVE, I had already written and mostly edited its sequel MAGE STRIKE, and I could see how much I had grown as a writer in that short time, both fortunately and unfortunately. I found a few parts that killed me because I wanted to do them better, or I could see ways to improve them now. But ultimately it’s a good lesson in “the perfect is the enemy of the good” because I will never stop seeing places to improve. If we are growing, our taste always outpaces our ability, and that’s a good thing. A lot of people are really enjoying it, and that’s good enough for me. A friend likes to throw out the quote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” and I think that’s really true.
More specifically, I discovered that I spent more time on romantic internal dialog than I had realized, especially in Aven’s point of view. I had worried if my bad guys were bad enough, but I actually got chills from your epically evil narration of their lines, so I guess they were bad enough in the end.
And it was also interesting to see when a line could be read with a different tone than I imagined it. That helps me understand the multiple experiences readers could be having as they read. For example, I think you brought out a wonderful vulnerability to both of the main characters at times that I hadn’t imagined. It was better than I imagined.
Also for some of the different voices, like that of Evana, the Mistress, the wolf, the dream voices…. Those transformed it from a rambling in my head in my own author voice to verging on 80s fantasy movie territory. Somehow it makes it all seem more real. That aspect has been awesome.
4) Your second book is out now (and will be available in audio this spring). What can you tell us about it?
My second book MAGE STRIKE is the sequel to MAGE SLAVE and continues the journey pretty much where Book 1 leaves us. It’s hard to describe it without including spoilers on the first book, so I’ll just say it continues the struggles of Book 1 while also introducing us to some pretty awesome new magic (if I must say so myself) and a whole new romance.
Personally, I love reading science fiction and fantasy, but I rarely read anything without a heavy side helping of romance. (Or sometimes it’s the main course with a side of magic and/or laser weapons.) And I personally always hate when the romance starts strong and then peters out as the series goes on. So I put a new couple in this book, and there’s another in Book 3. (Assuming everything goes as planned.)
5) How can people hear more about you and your work?
You can get to all my social media from my website at www.rkthorne.com. For new release news, the mailing list is the best bet: http://www.rkthorne.com/get-updates/ I’m pretty much a Pinterest addict, so that’s worth a look if you like pictures of swords and dragons and stuff like that. And Facebook is a common procrastination destination. Thanks!
Just enter in a comment and we will choose a winner (maybe more) to receive a free download of THE MAGE SLAVE from Audible! Drawing will take place January 31st.
And if you're a writer that Tanya has worked with, and you'd like to talk about it more, let Tanya know!