It’s been a while since Betsy has stopped by the blog, and since EXILE just came out in paperback, we thought it would be a perfect time to catch up and see what she’s been up to, and what’s on the horizon! Please welcome her back to the blog!
Betsy, the first book in your Seven Eyes series, EXILE, is out in paperback, and the next book in the series, EMISSARY, is scheduled to release early next year. For those that haven’t read EXILE, will you tell us a bit about the series and what inspired it?
Draken is wrongfully convicted for murdering his wife. His home country of Monoea doesn’t execute prisoners but lets the gods decide their fate. So he is dumped into the bay of an enemy country. He doesn’t even have shoes! He’s a sailor and a soldier; it’s like dropping an American marine into Iraq or North Korea and telling him to make a new life. But when a bane, an evil ghost Draken thought only existed in cradle-tales, attacks him, he gets dragged into court intrigue and politics and war. All that probably saves his life, even if he’d never admit it.
I wrote EXILE as a learning experience and never intended to sell it. I had just come off a complicated project (my first book, ARCHIVE OF FIRE) and I wanted something easier so I could practice a few things in my writing. I made a few rules for myself: tropes are allowed, even encouraged, but each must be twisted. And I wanted to write only one point of view. Then my critique group encouraged me to start submitting. I did for a few years and trunked the novel for about two years until I met the folks at Night Shade Books. Even with all that went on there (my series was caught up in the sale) I’ve ended up in a good position.
At the time I had no idea EXILE would be the start to a series. It was written as a standalone but fortunately Draken had more things to do. The single POV is probably my greatest hindrance now, especially now in the third book.
What do you think makes Draken vae Khellian a hero to root for? What do you enjoy most about writing his character?
That’s a tougher question than you might think. Draken suffers from low-grade depression and was seriously emotionally damaged by an abusive father and an early life of slavery. His self-worth is very low. But he gets up every day and does what needs doing, without fail.
Besides Draken, what other characters have you had the most fun writing?
I love writing Aarinnaie. She’s a princess, but that’s definitely not all she is. And I love Bruche, who acts as Draken’s Greek chorus. A reader favorite is Osias, but he’s probably my biggest challenge to write. A complimentary reviewer once called him enigmatic in a good way, and I was thinking, Sure, it’d be great if he wasn’t so enigmatic with me!! I have no more idea what he’s about than Draken does.
What is your writing process like?
I write a tagline, flap copy, and run those by my agent and friends and sometimes even the public on my website. Then if it passes muster I write a detailed synopsis. I’m usually drafting by then because I have no self-control. Day to day, I write best when my kids are in school, but I’ve learned I have to deal with constant interruptions. Like kids, Facebook, dog, laundry, emails, Facebook…
What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, fantasy?
Really it’s the imaginative aspects of it. I love the challenge of worldbuilding and putting characters in those worlds. For me I’m most creative within a structure, which worldbuilding provides. Then I can let characters run wild.
While reading I’m constantly amazed by the imaginative details and sheer comprehensiveness of the worlds good writers come up with—the politics, the characterization, the battles and wars. I like medieval-style settings, though it doesn’t have to be pseudo-European. Right now I’m enjoying the new flintlock fantasies. Also it’s really fun when my editor calls and asks for a map and I get to spend all day drawing one. And I’m thinking the whole time, this is my job.
What’s next for you this year? Care to give us a bit of a teaser about Emissary?
EMISSARY comes out in February. Draken has to go back to his old country where he faces religious revolution and a death threat against him. It’s a long book, too, about 30K words longer than EXILE.
I had a rough year last year: two kids starting new schools, health stuff and surgery, the Night Shade sale, and my husband had a job which took him overseas a lot. I feel like I’m just recovering from all that. My word counts are up, which is a relief, so this year is definitely looking up! We’re hoping to get a contract for the third book in the series and also another stand-alone. Plus I have a couple of other projects on standby.
Draken vae Khellian, bastard cousin of the Monoean King, had risen far from his ignominious origins, becoming both a Bowrank Commander and a member of the Crown’s Black Guard. But when he is falsely condemned for the grisly murder of his beloved wife, he is banished from the kingdom and cast upon the distant shore of Akrasia, at the arse-end of the world.
Compared to civilized Monoea, Akrasia is a forbidding land of Moonlings, magic, and restless spirits. It is also a realm on the brink of a bloody revolution, as a sinister conspiracy plots against Akrasia’s embattled young queen–and malevolent banes possess the bodies of the living.
Consumed by grief, and branded a murderer, Draken lives only to clear his name and avenge his wife’s murder. But the fates may have bigger plans for him. Alone in a strange land, he soon finds himself sharing the bed of an enigmatic necromancer and a half-breed servant girl, while pressed into the service of a foreign queen whose life and land may well depend on the divided loyalties of an exiled warrior . . .