Please welcome today’s featured author Anna Kashina to Mother/Gamer/Writer. Anna is the author of a new fantasy, Blades of the Old Empire (Majat Code #1), the story of Kara a fierce mercenary who is forced to chose between her honor and duty. Today, Anna joins us for a fun interview about her novel, writing, and a quick This or That!
1. Welcome Anna to Mother/Gamer/Writer. For those readers who are not familiar with you or your work can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for this interview, I am excited to be here.
I am a Russian-born author. I moved to the United States as an adult, and switched to writing in English a few years later. In my other life, I am also a biomedical scientist and hold a faculty position at a major US university.
In line with the focus of this blog, I am also a Mother/Gamer/Writer. I have been a writer for as long as I remember myself, and a gamer for some of the more recent years. I am also a mother of two, which seriously taps into all my other activities. I love good fantasy with historical and ethnic elements, and this love has influenced my writing.
2. Do you have a particular writing style? Any odd writing habits?
When I create a new setting or concept in a book I am working on, I usually start off with picking out historical topics and reading up on them. I do a lot of research before I actually start writing. Often I sketch a map, which became a must for the “Blades of the Old Empire”, since in one story line everything had to be timed just right and several characters had to reach the same point from two different origins at exactly the same time. I also usually write a detailed time line when I develop the main story line. Once everything is set up and it comes to writing the actual text, it feels a lot like watching a movie, where I can also control anything I like. I know the novel is working when I look forward to writing it every day. If I don’t, I always step back and figure out why not–and then fix it before moving on.
3. Who would you consider your favorite authors, or where do you draw inspiration?
Apart from the classical literature (which, to an extent, formed me as a person and probably put a first layer of influence onto my writing style), I really like traditional fantasy–and I am very picky about it. This creates an odd cocktail of favorites. I am naming just a few. “The Lord of the Rings” has been my first true fantasy read, and I used to enjoy it a lot at the age of 14-16. “Amber Chronicles” by Roger Zelazny is another long-term favorite. A more recent one is N. K. Jemisin’s “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”, the book which restored my faith in the future of the traditional fantasy genre.
My all-time favorite fantasy author, whose work I admire to no end, is Terry Pratchett. His novels inspire me, and I re-read them from time to time to learn something new. His beautiful writing and exquisite humor have a way of showing just enough of the underlying depth, all the more powerful because it is conveyed in lighter tones. I will always strive to achieve this kind of perfection. I do have a few favorites among his books, but they are all just so well done.
4. What books are currently on your bookshelf?
Right now, apart from the usual complement of historical reference books and collections of world mythology, I have Amy Raby’s “Hearts and Thrones” series on my shelf. These books are a great example of a secondary world fantasy with romance, done just right, and I find them both relaxing and absorbing. I also have “Raising Steam” by Terry Pratchett–a new Discworld novel, which came out in late fall and I did not have a chance to read yet.
5. Can you tell us a little about the world and people that readers will see in The Blades of the Old Empire?
To me, writing this novel was pure fun, and I hope the readers will share it. The world resembles medieval Europe, a traditional setting in fantasy, but it also has subtly exotic touches of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Russian culture and folklore.
The centerpiece are the Majat warriors — superb fighters who are essentially Eastern martial artists in the Western setting. They also have a sensual side: each of them is attractive, each is unique, and hopefully each will evoke a reaction in the readers.
These warriors live and train in the Majat Fortress and hire out their services. Their top ranks, Diamonds, are unmatched: each is like a one-man army, and as a result they are very expensive to hire, but also highly desired.
The Majat are valued for their loyalty. Once hired, they cannot be bribed or convinced to change sides. But there is also a flip side: once their term is over, someone else can hire them to serve the other side. This flip side seeds the main conflict in my book.
6. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what were your favorite scenes, chapters, or characters to write?
My favorite characters were quite unexpected to me, since they both started off as secondary but slowly worked their way into the core of the story. One is Ellah, a common girl who accidentally discovers she has a rare gift of truthsense and becomes immediately invaluable for the king’s diplomatic mission. Her perspective proved to be unique and fun, and drove a large part of the story for me. Another favorite character is Mai–a Diamond Majat, the king’s personal bodyguard. Like Ellah, he was originally intended as a minor character, but grew to dominate the story and I really looked forward to writing every scene with him.
I believe both characters became my favorite because each has a faulty side, and these faults make them act in unpredictable ways. During my work on the novel, it literally came to the point of having no idea what each of them going to say until they said it. They became alive in my mind, and this is, of course, an ultimately rewarding experience for an author.
Another one of my favorites was is a dress of live spiders. It could come handy in quite a few situations. It also added a new dimension to the concept of wardrobe malfunction.
7. The main character, Kara, is a mercenary and a fierce warrior. What was your inspiration behind writing such a strong female lead?
What inspired me about Kara was the idea of a very strong woman who also has a vulnerable side that is organically blended with her strength. These opposites come from the fact that on one hand she is an unmatched Diamond Majat warrior, and on the other–a beautiful woman. She learns to downplay her beauty and focus on her skill. And then, she meets a guy who simply does not see her warrior side, and sees only a beautiful girl he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Such pure, innocent love takes Kara by surprise–and sweeps right past her defenses. This initial conflict is not shown so much in the book, but its development feeds the main story, and it made Kara such fun for me to write about.
8. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes, I always give the advice that kept me going all these years: “Believe in yourself. And never give up.”
9. Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to your fans, or to people who are considering reading your novel?
Well, I hope from reading this interview, people would know what to expect. My novel would appeal to those who enjoy lighter-toned fast-paced adventure with elements of romance. It probably would not appeal to those who like gore or cannot stand any romantic interests in an adventure story.
To my fans, I would like to say a huge “Thank you.” Knowing that I have fans makes it all worth it, and I do hope to see some like-minded people out there who enjoy this book and can relate to the fun I had writing it.
To people considering reading my novel, I can only say “I hope you like it!”
And yes, to everyone I can also say that I really appreciate feedback and do find it very rewarding when I hear from people and learn their thoughts about my book. Please contact me by leaving comments on my blog. I am also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads (see the link below).
This or That:
1. Tea or Coffee?
Coffee, when I am by myself. Tea, when I am in company.
2. Reading or Writing?
Writing, when I feel creative and can hope for at least some uninterrupted time. Reading, when I feel like relaxing or if I am only sneaking in a few minutes.
3. Walking Dead, True Blood or Game of Thrones?
Game of Thrones, but with reservations. I love the world building and the character creation, I learned many lessons from it. I don’t like the gore, and the excessive realism that can put any character on the chopping block at any time.
4. Books or Movies?
Books. However, if I am very tired, I do sometimes retreat into the more passive pleasure of movie-watching.
For More Information, Please Visit:
www.annakashina.com (links to my blog at http://annakashinablog.wordpress.com/)
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions; it has been my pleasure having you on Mother/Gamer/Writer!