We all know I adored The Rose Shield Tetralogy (award winning cover of Catling’s Bane pictured to the left). After reviewing these, I was lucky enough for Diana to agree to a Q&A about the series. See below for the good stuff!
What was your inspiration for The Rose Shield Series?
I believe that humans are, at their core, emotional beings, and that our feelings drive us more than thoughts and reason. When we interact with others, we’re trying to influence them emotionally – make them smile, comply, love, take our side, go away. We are masters at influencing, almost from birth. For the book, I simply took a big leap forward and asked: what if a group of people could influence people’s feelings artificially through a special talent? What power that would give them! And what would they do if there was someone who could stop them?…
Were there themes you wanted to get across to the reader outside of the story? If so, what were they? Were these themes in mind before you started the story or did they evolve with it?
Power and wealth are usually the culprits in my stories, greed getting in the way of kindness, caring, fairness, and generosity. That’s certainly the case in this series. It impacts individuals and whole races, as well as the planet. Sound familiar? That said, I do try to focus on the human story versus making any sort of political statement. One thing I did a little different in this series is make the planet sentient. That was fun. And it was all planned out from the start.
Which character was your favorite to write?
Oh, so many! Catling and Whitt endure such hardships that their scenes were often heartbreaking or difficult to write. I put those poor characters through the wringer. Probably the most fun was Tiler with his unconventional cursing. I had a blast making up ridiculous swear words and fitting them into his scenes with his goofball personality. (Reading Minds Side Note: I can’t wait for the perfect opportunity to use the term “sock fondler” in reference to an unpleasant person)
What was the biggest challenge for writing this story?
Probably making sure that the magic system (the power to influence others’ emotions) was consistent. It’s a pretty powerful skill, and I had to keep checking myself and asking the question: why wouldn’t they just use their influence? There needed to be reasons and consequences in every instance for using it or deciding not to.
What process do you follow when writing a story? i.e. full outline vs organically letting it unfold while writing.
I’m an outliner for sure. Outlines keep me and the characters focused on the goal, and the writing stays tighter. There’s less running off on tangents (which I can easily do) and fewer plot holes and loose ends. My outlines are definitely flexible, though. I’m comfortable making changes as I write and when the characters convince me it’s a good idea.
Outlines support consistency and cohesiveness, both important to me. For the Rose Shield, I outlined all four books, wrote them and published them simultaneously in order to make sure the elements of the story made sense the whole way through. It meant holding up the first book, Catling’s Bane, for a whole year, but it was worth it to me.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I was a member of a writers’ critique group for five years, and I never would have landed a publisher without their constructive criticism. From my fellow writers, I learned a tremendous amount about the craft and had an opportunity to find my voice. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it’s vital that we seek feedback in a way that challenges us and helps us grow. I recommend writers’ groups to all aspiring writers.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently plugging away on a duology: Soul Swallowers and Legacy of Souls (titles may change). I’m aiming to release it in the late spring (both at the same time, of course). It takes place in a world where people’s souls are captured in tiny spheres when they die, and those glowing pearls can be swallowed by others, passing on the essence of personality, wisdom, and skills. Of course, this doesn’t always go smoothly or happily. There are some souls that simply should not be swallowed!
Are you willing to share an excerpt?
Are you kidding? I’d love to! This one is relatively early in the first book and introduces a new character, a woman who’s swallowed too many souls:
Raze climbed the ledges, and on a flat rock bordering the fall’s pool, he halted. A woman knelt near the trees, a fire flickering at her knees. Her red hair fell forward, tangled threads of copper hiding her face. She added twigs to the flames with a thin arm, the only part of her not concealed beneath her cloak.
He softened his voice, “Hello.” She leapt up and brandished a knife, eyes tight in an oval face and flitting like panicked birds. He raised his hands. “I’m not here to hurt you. I live at the freehold.”
She aimed the knife at him, knuckles white and arm trembling. Her cloak, too large for her small stature, dragged across the rock as she sidled away. “I should kill him.”
Raze tensed, confused by the odd statement and wary of the threat. “Is someone else here?” He stepped back, prepared to leap to the trail and run.
“Nae, I’ll carve out the evil.” She peered across the pool into the lattice of vines. “I see the wickedness in his skin.”
“Who are you talking to?” He studied the forest. A wisp of fog hung in the trees and played tricks with his eyes, but he sensed nothing alarming beyond the woman’s blade, no hint of another presence.
Her eyes glanced at the falls. “She doesn’t want me to kill you.”
“Echo. But the others swear there’s evil in you.”
Mist and spray from the white water drifted with the curling breeze. Watery wraiths formed and dissipated. Raze concentrated, seeking more than the whimsy of imagination, but no ghosts appeared before him, and their absence was a relief. One mad woman with a gleaming blade seemed preferable to a host of angry spirits intent on his death.