(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard, and Lia was written by Lia Rees)
Those nearing the clearing in the gardens heard voices.
“You’re horrible at this.”
“I’m horrible at this? I’m the one who taught you!”
Vixen shook her head as she stood with arms crossed watching her author, Kelly, attempt to throw one of Vixen’s blades into a tree stump. “I told you that knives were my preferred weapon, so you wrote it. You’re doing a pathetic job.” She motioned to the stump as Kelly’s attempt hit the wood handle first.
Kelly let out an exasperated sighed then muttered under her breath, “Fine, fine.” She went to retrieve the blades for the assassin then handed them back to her. “I’ll master it—one of these days.”
“Uhhum, but I think you have a guest.” Vixen sheathed the blades as she turned Honroth entered the garden clearing with a woman. The assassin raised her brows at the presence of the king acting as escort. She jutted her chin toward him. “Escape the High Court?”
Honroth grunted. “Something like that.” But then he fixed his gaze on his author and bowed his head to her. “Lady Kelly, I believe this is your visitor.”
Kelly nodded and smiled at Lia Rees. “Lia, quite nice to meet you! You should feel honored. You were just escorted here by the King of Cuskelom.” Then she gestured to Vixen. “And this is Vixen—temperamental assassin. She was just giving me pointers on throwing knives while I waited for you. She claims I’m horrible.”
A little taken aback, Lia gave a nervous smile. The ways of court were not at all her realm of experience, and she didn’t want to step on any important toes. “I’m honored to meet you all,” she said, playing it safe. A boring statement, but possibly necessary among the aristocracy. She turned to admire the scenery, feeling much safer there. “This place is beautiful,” she observed. “Won’t you tell me a little of its history?”
“Lorrek would be the one to ask that, but he’s currently away,” Honroth informed then motioned for Vixen. “You’re needed in the court. One of your…assassin brethren are here.”
Vixen perked up with curiosity and walked away without a farewell to the visitor, but Honroth bowed his head at Lia then smiled at her. “Enjoy your visit.” With that, he too left.
Kelly shrugged. “Sorry they couldn’t stick around, but come on, I’ll show you something beautiful. I’ll ask you questions while we walk.” She gestured for Lia to follow her as she walked along the stream deeper into the forest. “So, first question, how long have you been writing?” She raised her brows as she glanced at Lia beside her.
Lia thought for a moment as she stepped carefully over branches and pebbles. This didn’t seem like much of a path to her, but she preferred it that way. Better to know the wilderness on its own terms—the less human intervention, the better.
“I was reading from a ridiculously young age,” she began. “Huge numbers of books. My dad has a story where I was at playgroup at the age of about three, and they had this book corner where they’d send the kids to just look at the pictures. Because that’s all they expected us to do at that age. So I was spending a lot of my time there. Along came the playgroup leader, absolutely amazed: ‘She’s READING!'”
She pulled back on the showing-off, slightly embarrassed. It could sometimes run away with her. “Anyway, yeah. I started writing little stories not long after that. My dad taught me to use the computer he wrote on—it was an early one, an Amstrad PCW, the text was green on black—and I’d write fairytales, school stories, space stories. You name it. And he bound the stories into these little plastic folders. I’ve still got them somewhere.”
She tailed off and gazed into the distance, listening to the soft bubbling of the water. Everything about that era seemed so far away. “There was some misunderstood precocious teen diary stuff in my school years. You know, the standard intellectual misfit heroine who nobody understands and who is so much better than everybody. I’m ever so glad the internet was in its infancy at that time. I wouldn’t want those stories hanging around on Wattpad or something to embarrass me now.”
“Anyway, bringing this up to date, there was a gap of around six years when I didn’t write or consider writing anything. It wasn’t a good time—there were some health problems which I’m still sorting out. I actually decided to start writing again as a way of conquering those health problems. Some people liked my ideas, and that’s promising. So far.”
She stopped. Had she rambled? Probably.
Kelly smiled, brushing aside a low limb of a tree. “Sounds like quite an adventure! Writing can be quite healing, so I’m glad you’ve picked it up again.”
As they walked, the stream became wider, but Kelly stay alongside it until they came to another clearing. All around them, green grass carpeted the land, but before them, an elegant waterfall cascaded and fed the stream.
Kelly headed for the pool of cool water then glanced over her shoulder at Lia. “So, what kind of writing do you do? Short stories? Novels? Poetry?”
“This place is spectacular,” Lia sighed. “I wish I could spend some more time here. Do you mind if I put my feet in the water? I’ve been walking for a while and they’re aching slightly.” More than slightly, but she didn’t want to moan.
“Come on! I want to put my feet in the water too!” Kelly chuckled as she jogged toward the pool, sat down on a stone warmed by the sun, and took off her shoes then slipped them into the water. She watched as Lia did the same.
Lia continued with her answer. “At the moment, I’ve got this big novel in the planning stage,” she continued. “It’s science fiction. But it’s what they call soft science fiction, meaning it’s less about the technology and more about actual human cultures and how they can shift. There’s a lot of psychology in there too. It’s based on my personal development and the lessons of my life. So much so, that in my less confident moments I worry that it’s really not relevant to anyone else.” She gave a short laugh and surveyed the landscape again.
Kelly pondered the answer then nodded. “Soft science fiction–that’s interesting. So is this your first major novel to write, or have you written others?”
Lia undid the laces of her shoes and gave a long, pleasurable sigh as the water stroked her feet. “Yeah, it’s the first. There was another which never got finished—a sort of high-concept fantasy that was playing with ideas of reality, feminism and religion. Yes, there was a genuine plot in it too,” she smirked briefly. “But it never got off the ground. I seem to be incapable of writing anything quick and simple. It’s high-concept stuff with big ideas, or absolutely nothing at all. So I’ve realized I’d better get my act together and write the stuff, or it will be nothing at all. Literally.”
Kelly chuckled. “Yeah, writing something quick and simple takes skill. That’s why short stories are a pain—for me at least.” She splashed her feet in the water and motioned to the waterfall. “So with all this complicated stuff you’re writing, do you work with an outline or wing it?” She raised her brows as she glanced at Lia.
“At the moment, everything’s in note stage, but I am going to bring it together into an outline eventually. I don’t want the outline to be too strict, or I’ll know what’s coming and get bored with it before even writing it. But if it’s too loose, my memory problems will take over and I won’t add the things I’m supposed to. So it’s walking a balance. Everything in life seems to be about walking a balance, really.”
She looked up as a distant bird flew across the sky. Lucky thing—no self-censorship or worrying about “balance” as far as it was concerned.
“Yep—he delicate balance of life.” Kelly nodded glad that Lia observed this in life because a lot of people couldn’t grasp this concept.
She then fixed her gaze on the waterfall ahead of them and nodded to it. “You’d be pleased to know that you’re the first one I’ve brought here. I decided I needed a different setting for the interview.” She smiled at Lia. “So, what’s your story about? What’s its title?”
“Well, it’s titled ‘Her Name is Liberty’, and the big themes are a journey of discovery and a bid for freedom, but I’ll get down to the human level. We’re in a city that’s pretty well developed, technologically speaking. The problem is that they’ve achieved that at the cost of restrictions on people’s lives. So you don’t choose your path, your job or anything like that – they’re planned for you. And they’ve also made some significant changes to the way babies are born. Well, they’re not born, they’re created from genetic material in laboratory settings, because the process is more controllable that way. They’re basically in a bit of a gilded cage.”
“So our heroine, Ayla, has been completely brought up in this world and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. She’s entirely part of the system. It’s only when she meets some ambassadors from alien cultures, and encounters their ways, that she starts to question the old patterns she’s been brought up with. And from then on, it becomes her quest to shake up society and discover herself at the same time.” Lia hoped it was all making sense.
Kelly nodded as it all made sense. “Story of self-discovery and shaking the world as you know it. Fantastic! Who are some other characters in the story? What’s the antagonist like?”
“Well, there’s the Sector Administrator, who prefers the system to stay exactly as it is. He’s probably the closest thing to an antagonist, especially as he knows some rather uncomfortable things about Ayla’s background that she doesn’t get to learn for a while. And neither do we.” She smiled wickedly. “But I’m not going to make him a cardboard villain. The battle of issues here isn’t black and white. Do you choose freedom when it means people might starve to death? Can you make that choice for others? There are decent people out there right now who believe both sides of that argument. So I’ve made him a pleasant, intelligent and charming guy, and I’m giving him some insightful things to say. I want the reader to like him, and to be as unsure as Ayla is about where to go next.”
Kelly nodded as she listened to all this. “Good—not a cardboard villain, and I’m really glad to hear the conflicts are more battle of issues as you said because that’s much more realistic and interesting.” She then paused and listened then frowned as she gave Lia a look. “We’ve got to head back. Time’s up unfortunately.” She pulled her feet out of the water, shook them to get most of the water off, but then slipped on her shoes and rose to her feet as Lia did the same.
Finally, they were heading back, and Kelly asked one more question, “So, what one thing would you like people to walk away from with your story? If that makes any sense…”
Lia sighed, reluctant to leave the beautiful wilderness. “There are so many themes. I don’t know that I can pick one. And I really don’t want it to seem like an issue novel—a book written to push a political message. But…” She thought for a moment.
Kelly raised her brows as she glimpsed at Lia. “But?”
“There are two real themes. The first—I’ve barely touched on it in this interview, damn it—is that there is a wilderness within human nature, and you don’t have to suppress it or surrender to it: there is a middle ground. That’s why I was so happy to come out here with you. It’s a metaphor for our minds in a big way. And the main theme of the book is something leading on from that. Understand your own individual nature, know it back to front, and make your own choice. Even if it seems, well, alien to the rest of the world.” Lia supposed she was happy with that.
“I love it. Very thought provoking, and that’s important for a story, so keep writing!” At last they came to the clearing where they had met. An open portal awaited them. Kelly motioned to that. “My character, Lorrek, opened that for you. It’ll take you home.” She then smiled at Lia. “Thanks again for coming! It was really great to meet you! This was a wonderful conversation.”
Lia gave Kelly a bright smile. “Actually, I should thank you for bringing me here and listening to my ideas. I still have some barriers to writing—mainly health stuff, cognitive issues—but your questions are helping me clarify things. It’s wonderful to be respected as an author when I haven’t even written my book yet.”
She nodded in farewell and stepped back through the portal into her own world, resolving to continue her writing soon.
Note: Lia Rees will be publishing her book, ‘Her Name is Liberty,’ under the name Arienne Bird. Follow her on Facebook and check out the awesome services she offers to writers to promote their own work!
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