(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Amy was written by Amy Hopkins.)
‘The topmost room in a high tower on a castle. It’s high and poky and looks a little ruined, but it’s cozy and warm by the fire, a biting wind trough the open window and great views.’ That was the exact description given when Kelly asked her interviewee where she wanted to meet. Thankfully these interviews occurred only in the imagination, so Kelly conjured something matching the description. It was a bit hard to have ruins and yet cozy and warm, but she managed and waited in the tower, staying warm by the fire in the center of the room.
It was an odd layout with an opening in the ceiling to let the smoke escape, but there was a way to close the opening if it were to rain and snow. This allowed there to be a large fire pit in the middle of the room, and this fire was typically stronger than the biting wind the blew over the ruins of the rest of the castle and through the narrow windows of the tower. It made for an interesting setup, but Kelly bundled herself up, stayed near the fire, and conjured a cup of hot cocoa.
A portal opened on the other side of the fire, and Kelly looked around to see her visitor step her. She smiled and rose to her feet. “Amy Hopkins? Kelly Blanchard. Hope this place matches your criteria. Would you like hot cocoa or coffee? I can just conjure you a cup—perks of being in my imagination.” Kelly smiled.
“”Red wine. Mulled if you have it.” Amy settled down, wrapping herself in her soft cloak and warming her hands by the fire.
“Sure thing.” Kelly smiled kindly as she conjured a glass for Amy and offered it to her. “Here you go. So, how are you doing today?”
“Glad to be somewhere quiet and cool.” Taking the wine, Amy cupped it in her hands and had a long swallow.
“Glad to be of help!” Kelly lifted her mug of hot cocoa in her hands as a salute before sipping on it. “So, tell me a bit about yourself, Amy. Where do you come from? What is it that you do?”
“Well, I come from a place that’s warm and sunny, with white beaches and a small town feel even though it’s right by the city. I’m in the coast of Australia, a great place to be a writer. I picked up writing when my third child was born. This is the longest I’ve ever been unemployed (18 months) and though I love having the chance to be a full time mum, I need more…” Amy coked an ear, listening for the sleeping baby. Assured all was quiet she continued. “I love fantasy, love reading so much. I love being taken to new worlds, and creating them. Being a writer is in my blood, I’ve just pushed it down for a long time.”
“More time to yourself? More work outside the home? More inspiration or what exactly?” Kelly lifted her brows as she observed Amy then sipped on more of her drink awaiting an answer.
Amy thought for a moment. “I need to be more than mum. More than someone’s wife. I need to have something that’s entirely me. I studied for a long time and that gave me joy, but not as much as writing.”
When Kelly heard what Amy said about fantasy writing, she nodded with a smile. “Fantasy stories are always nice. Have you always been a writer? What really inspired you to get serious about writing though?”
I’ve had stories in my head since I was a child. I loved writing- from a year 6 murder mystery a la Christopher Pike (did I remember his name right?) And a year 8 romance set on the plains of Montana (little did I know Montana is full of mountains, no plains to be seen), it was something I knew I was good at.
I fell into fantasy as a teenager and it filled a hole I never knew existed. I’ve started and drafted so many books, but when I recently learned about self publishing and had a shot with a nonfiction book, I realised it could be something real. Not a little girl’s fanciful dream, but a paying job doing the most exciting thing in the world.
Kelly nodded as she heard this, and she smiled. “So you write fantasy. Tell me about your story–whichever story you want to focus on. I’d love to hear it.” She sat back in her chair to listen.
Amy took a moment, thinking. “You know, it’s weird… it as supposed to be an epic fantasy, Lord of the Rings style, with beautiful elves leading the cast, but with a futuristic sci-fi styled landscape. It started from a story prompt- classic fantasy with ipads and cellphones.” Amy paused, frowning as if just realised just how different the story ended up being.
“I started writing it while knee deep in the Dresden Files. Maybe that’s what changed it. I was really enjoying the pace and action of urban fantasy, with characters so like people I know. I was also reading a lot about diversity in fiction and I adore the idea of examining societal issues like bigotry in a fantastical setting, using placeholder races/abilities. I think it has the capacity to open people up to their own actions, without blame.”
“Dream Stalker ended up being about a human woman, a half-blood Talent. Talent’s are magic users in my world, but half-bloods are weaker and a little ostracised by the full-bloods, and by normal mortals. They have fewer rights and less protections in both societies, so when a killer starts targeting them, there’s no one to turn to.”
Amy sat back and drank slowly, hoping Kelly wasn’t put off by her rambling. It’s just that she did feel quite passionate about issues like diversity, it as impossible not to go a little crazy when asked about it.
“Oh wow, that sounds so intriguing! And I like fantasy stories that aren’t the traditional kind, so good for you!” Kelly smiled widely and finally set down her now-empty mug to lean forward. “Tell me more. Who are the characters in this story? What exactly are their struggles?”
Amy smiled, relieved. “Well, Emma is my protagonist. She run an enchanted tea shop in London, which gives her a lot of contacts with other half-bloods and with the Otherworlders- you know, the kobolds, giants, Fae and the servant classes employed by Talent Lords. She has her place and is happy with it. She’s very confident in what she does, but when she’s called on to stop the killer, she really doubt her ability to do anything. She’s just a half-blood after all. Gibble is her boggart. He’s supposed to be a trickster but has been in her family so long, that side of him wore off. He now helps her in the shop and is very protective of her. He knows she has a destiny to fulfill, though she doesn’t know that yet, and he’s determined to keep her safe. They’re helped by two brothers: Harrod, a Talent Lord, and Martin, his brother. Martin was born with no magic and abandoned as a baby. For Harrod to find this out as an adult, after being raised in Talented society, where magical power determines your worth, was a shock. He’s always questioned the status quo, but it’s been a huge adjustment for him to let go of a lot of his old beliefs in order to accept his brother. Amy took a deep breath. “He’s a bit of a jerk sometimes. There are parts of the book where I don’t like him much, but Emma sees his potential… when they’re not arguing.”
“Wait, so Martin grew up with Harrod but has no magic, and Harrod is a bit judgmental of Martin…or of his own society?” Kelly furrowed her brows, wanting clarification. It was interesting regardless of the direction it went.
Amy laughed. “See? I get to excited and the words come out in a jumble. Martin was abandoned at birth by his mother. Harrod thought the baby was stillborn, but found out the truth when their mother died. He tracked Martin down a year before the story was set. The two of them moved in together, into a house their mother had left them both in an effort to make up for what happened.” She thought for a moment more.
“Harrod knows the way the Talented treats those with little or no power is wrong. However, even if you grow up believing in equality, if you were the child of, say, a plantation owner back when slavery was around, you’d probably still have some pretty skewed ideas of what ‘equality’ really means. He thinks Martin is a worthy person, but still treats him like a child sometimes, tries to protect him when it’s not needed. Emma and Martin need to teach him that respecting someone means not taking away their choices, not assuming you know better than them.”
“I see.” Kelly nodded, leaning forward in her seat to plant her chin in the palm of her hand. She had to smile. “I like these characters already, but is there a main antagonist?”
Amy shuddered. “That would be the Dream Stalker. He’s crazy for power, killing people to steal their magic. The scariest part is, he thinks he’s entirely justified for doing so. In fact, by the end of the story Emma has some empathy for him. Oh she hates him, he killed her friends and tried to take her life. But she can see how, with such a twisted upbringing and his set of circumstances, how this man can think that’s a logical.course of action to him.”
She burrowed further into her thick coat as if chilled by the character she had just described. “All the worst people in the world think they’re just as right as everyone else.”
“Very true. They always do, but I’m glad you’re applying that to the story. I makes for a very interesting tale, and if you can make the readers uncertain about which side they stand on…well, that’s where most of the fun is.” Kelly grinned slowly. She always enjoyed complicated characters. “So, you’ve already described a lot of how your fantasy story is different from many others out there, but there is a lot of fantasy works out there. Is there anything else that really makes your work stand out from the rest?”
“Well, it seems rare to have a story where magic and fantasy exists alongside ordinary people out in the open. It’s a tiny thing but one that I love.” Amy chuckled and shrugged.
“It’s good though. I really love it too.” Kelly gave Amy a reassuring smile. “So what is one thing you would like your readers to remember and take from your story once I finish reading it?”
“That sometimes, it doesn’t matter if you can’t see the message in a story. It can sit in your subconscious, changing your perspective and broadening your views without you even realising. That’s why reading is so crucial for children and adults and everyone in between.”
Though she chose her words carefully it was clear she knew the answer to the question. It was one she’d thought of often.
“True, very true.” Kelly nodded but then sat back with a sigh. “As much as I would love to continue this conversation, unfortunately our time is coming to an end.” She rose to her feet. “But let me ask you one more question. What is your most favorite thing about this story? It could be a character, a scene, an idea, or anything.”
Amy giggled. “Barg. He’s a cheeky, miscreant hobgoblin with a heart of gold.”
This made Kelly chuckle. “I can’t wait to meet whatever character you’ll have me meet. Sorry our time is so short. Time always flies during these interviews, but I’ve really enjoyed it. Come. I’ll walk you out.” She motioned to the door.
Amy stood and shook of the cold. Following Kelly”s lead she headed for the door, shooting one last wistful glance at the room as she headed back to her ordinary life.
Amy Hopkins’ book ‘Dream Stalker, Book 1 of the Talented series.’ Is available on Amazon. Be sure to follow her on social media for more updates!