Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Author Interview #168: Elfhunter by C.S. Marks

We’ve stopped in with C.S. Marks the author of the high fantasy novel Elfhunter (4.4 stars on 124 reviews) and a novella, The Fire King. Marks has created the world of Alterra where her stories take place. Her books have earned acclaim from a wide range of readers, particularly for depth of charac­ter development, compelling storyline, and writing excellence. The kindle ver­sions have enjoyed top 10 seller status in epic fantasy in both the US and UK.
Elfhunter is the tale of Gorgon Elfhunter, a monstrous, mysterious creature who has sworn to destroy all the Elves of Alterra—until none remain. It is the story of Wood-elven heroine Gaelen Taldin, who has sworn to rid her world of the Elfhunter even as she is hunted by him. The conflict between them creates a tangled web that blurs the line between Light and Darkness, love and obsession, free will and fate. Filled with moments both tender and terrifying, thrilling yet thought-provoking, it is a timeless epic fantasy suitable for readers of all ages. Join the Company of Elves, dwarves, mortal men, and delightfully intelligent horses. Come to Alterra—the “World that Is”.

Author Interview with C.S. Marks

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?
Actually, I’ve enjoyed writing as a form of recreation for a long time. It’s in my blood–my Dad was a Professor of Literature, and he inspired not only my love of reading and words, but the love of story-telling. I got serious about writing after he passed away suddenly in 2000–it was a devastating loss that left a “hole” in my spirit. I believe I filled that hole by writing. It is my greatest regret that he did not live to see my work in print, as he would have loved it. (Though I’m betting he would have accused me of using too many exclamation points!)
What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
Actually, the setting of Elfhunter is not all that unique. The setting is merely a backdrop for the stage on which the characters act out the story. It enhances in that it gives the reader the feel of being in another time and place, but it is not the main focus of the work. The world of Alterra is made real based on my own considerable experience with wild places in North America, which it is (rather loosely) patterned after.
Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?

That is one of the greatest strengths of the work (so say the reviewers). The books are almost entirely character-driven. Some are based on people I know, in fact. They have the same personalities and quirks, and they react as I believe those folks would react. As far as basing any of them on myself, well…I think every fiction writer indulges in some form of self-insertion. The two characters whose mannerisms and world-view most closely resemble my own are Fima, the Dwarvish lore-master, and Gaelen, the rather strong-willed, occasionally annoying heroine.
Having an intimate understanding of how species evolve and how the environment works has had has a major impact on the realistic quality of the Alterra world and its inhabitants. I can empathize with the characters–I understand what it feels like to spend days alone in remote areas in all weather. My knowledge of horses is extensive, and, since the horses are important to the the story, it’s nice to have them written by someone who really knows them. Having ridden a hundred tough miles in a day gives me a very realistic idea of what horses are actually capable of doing. I have a fair idea of how they think, what motivates them, and how they are cared for in field situations.
Tell us a little about your main character?
The story really turns around two principle characters. The protagonist, a rather underestimated heroine named Gaelen, sets out to rid her world of the antagonist, Gorgon Elfhunter. Gorgon is a highly complex, occasionally sympathetic, thoroughly rotten character whose story lies at the heart of the trilogy. I don’t want to reveal any more about him. Gaelen’s story is also fairly complicated; there’s a lot more to her than first appears.
This is one of the cool things about the Alterra Histories novellas–each one gives the readers additional background, insight, and understanding of their favorite characters. If one reads “Fallen Embers”, for example, one gains a great deal of insight into Gaelen’s personality.
What do you enjoy the most about writing?
I love playing with words. They are my friends. I use them the way an artist uses paint, or clay, or metal. When I lose myself in a good story, and the words flow willingly from my mind onto the page, there’s no finer feeling.
In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?
This is either a very simple question or a very complex one. I can’t possibly list all the ways in which events reveal my world view, because to some extent they all do. (Alterra is my world–I order it according to my world view.) But I can say this: Once you have read the entire trilogy (Ravenshade is especially important), you will know a very great deal about my views on a wide variety of things.
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Writing isn’t hard. Revising is. For me, the hardest part is stepping away from revisions, knowing when to “quit messing with it”. I am rather a perfectionist when it comes to this–and there’s always a better way to say something, y’know?
Where do you get the inspiration to write?
Actually, the characters threaten me with bodily harm if I don’t keep their stories going. I’ve been immersed in Alterra for so long now that I really can’t identify any other inspiration. Now, as far as short stories go, anything goes. My most recent shorts were inspired by such mundane tasks as pulling enormous weeds from the horse-paddocks, and finding a dead mouse in a water bucket.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Obviously, I owe a great debt to Professor Tolkien, who inspired my obsession with classic fantasy. I will always love his works. But I am also very fond of James Herriot, whose wonderful books I return to time and again. They are my pure “comfort reads”. For horror, I like Stephen King. His love of words is obvious, and I can hardly wait to see if he can actually “gross me out” in a new book. Field biologists are almost as difficult to gross out as funeral directors and pathologists are.
What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
I like nothing better than to ride through pretty country on a good horse. I suppose the ultimate luxury would be riding through pretty country on a good horse while snacking on a ziploc baggie full of Froot Loops.
What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
Everything I do is character-driven. I know where the story will end, but I don’t know how we will get there. I let the characters take the reins, and they do an excellent job. Now, there are some pivotal or particularly complicated points in the story that have to be outlined, and in that case, I outline. Sometimes the characters will go along with it–sometimes, they won’t. ;-) I’ve learned not to argue with them. I write in the early morning, late at night, all day…as my schedule permits. Whenever I have several hours of uninterrupted work time, I try to take advantage.
C.S. Marks holds a doctorate in Life Sci­ences, and is a Professor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she has taught Equine Science for twenty years. She is a popular panelist, seminar pre­senter, and lecturer. Her no-nonsense, realistic, practical-yet-good-humored approach has benefited many aspiring authors. She encourages writers who strive for excellence, regardless of pub­lishing path chosen.
Social media and buy links:
Connect with C.S. Marks: Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Elfhunter Website
Elfhunter: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords
The Fire King: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

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