In celebration of the David Gemmell Award short-lists being published, Gollancz is thrilled to be running a series of interviews-in-ninety-seconds with as many short-listed authors as we can get our hands on! Today we’ve caught up with Elspeth Cooper, author of the acclaimed fantasy debut novel Songs of the Earth which is nominated for Best Debut Novel 2011, and is the first novel in The Wild Hunt series. The story continues this year with her exceptional sequel Trinity Rising. We caught up with her, and took a moment to ask a few questions . . .
If you could have one writerly superpower, what would it be? The ability to stretch time – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for writers to update their websites, write blog posts, do promotion, attend events, maintain a profile in social media, eat, sleep and bathe regularly – oh, and finish the next book.
Do you have any writing rituals that help, when you’re putting together an epic fantasy novel? Not really, although I do have a favourite mug, from which I consume epic quantities of tea. Tea definitely helps.
You may bring one mythological creature to life – you may even keep one as a pet – which one would you choose, and why? It would be too easy to say a dragon (because, duh, it’s a dragon), so I think it would have to be a pegasus: *the* coolest mode of transportation bar none, zero environmental impact, and good for the roses in the garden.
How much real-life research do you think it is necessary for an author do to? It is essential to pick up a sword, before you describe a fight scene? Some research is absolutely necessary – for example, when writing about horses it helps to know the hairy end from the end with the teeth, and how far you can ride one in a day. For fight scenes, it helps to be sure (or at least reasonably confident) that the fancy move your hero is pulling off wouldn’t dislocate his shoulder if he tried it in real life.
How far you choose to take that research is up to you. For me, I wrote the entirety of Songs of the Earth without ever picking up a sword; it was only after the book was complete bar final revisions that I started to worry whether I might be short-changing the reader by not doing so. One combat-ready replica longsword later, I felt more confident about my depictions of sword-fights, and to be honest, just having a sword to hand so I can swing it about helps get me in the right frame of mind. Heaven help the burglar who breaks into my house . . .
What’s your current favourite TV series, fantasy or otherwise? Castle. Nathan Fillion as a mystery writer – what’s not to love? Blue Bloods runs it a close second.
If you could offer one piece of advice to an aspiring fantasy author what would it be? Write the story that speaks to you. The one that keeps you up at night, that whispers in your ear when you should be doing other things, that compels you to scribble on random envelopes. But most of all, just write.
You’ve been shortlisted for the David Gemmell Awards, which is wonderful. While you have the podium, is there another author out there you would suggest readers take a look at? I’m a big fan of Anne Lyle – her recent release Alchemist of Souls is a terrific alternate-history fantasy adventure, almost impossible to put down. Even if you don’t think you like fantasy, you’ll like this.
Elspeth Cooper is an exceptional writer. Born and raised in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, she has always been fascinated by the magic of words and it was inevitable that she would come to write magical fiction of her own. You can learn more about her and her novels on her website, by following @ElspethCooper on Twitter, or you can read an extract from Songs of the Earth here.
You can vote for Songs of the Earth, or any of the novels short-listed for the Legend Award for Best Debut novel, here. Voting ends 31 May, so vote now!
If you would like to attend the award ceremony, please contact the DGLA directly! All details can be found here.