Welcome back to Monday!
If you're in the US, you might have today off (being President's Day and all). If you're outside the US, well, you're getting Monday out of the way!
Today we're visited by a talented Fantasy Author, Xanxa Symanah! She has always been involved in creative writing. In fact, before she learned to read and write, she would make up stories, telling them to anyone who would listen, or simply reciting them to herself when she lacked an audience.
She is also a poet, having had some of her poetry published in an anthology which was brought out by a Brazilian University publishing house. Some of her poems have also featured on drug abuse awareness websites, youth club websites and other creative communities online.
Her main areas of work are epic and urban fantasy in a modern day setting. She has written seven fantasy novels with the collective title The Virian Chronicles and four offshoot novels collectively entitled The Virian Companions. She is currently working on another series of offshoot novels called The Vyrdigaan Prophecies. She has also written one detective novel and published a collection of her
She is married to the home-based progressive rock musician Ian Vincent Wallace (formerly Ian Raggatt) and she wrote a novella to accompany one of his albums, The Presence, telling the story of the concept in her own words. The novella was distributed with the first batch of CDs released but is now only available in eBook format.
Besides creative writing, she has a keen interest in fantasy and science-fiction movies and TV shows, travel, languages and music.
Let's see what she's up to!
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Xanxa: I’ve always made up stories, even before I learned to read and write. Acquiring those skills enabled me to get my stories down in a more reliable and lasting format. Right from early childhood, I knew writing was my passion.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Xanxa: I was about nine or ten. I didn’t often show my work to others but on a whim, I showed my Dad one of my poems. He said my use of language was frightening. I took that as a compliment. I think he meant that he was surprised by my command of language and the concept of the poem. He hadn’t expected me to produce something like that at such an early age.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Xanxa: Unlike many writers, I don’t use contractions in my narrative; only in dialogue. Also, there are some formatting conventions which I dislike, so I ignore them. Most of that is due to me being borderline OCD, and the rest is pure stubbornness.
How many books have you written?
Xanxa: At the time of this interview, I’ve written 17 books. 15 of those are fantasy and there’s one murder mystery and one collection of dark poetry.
Which is your favourite?
Xanxa: So far, I have two favourites. From my Virian Chronicles series, “Malachi’s Law” is my favourite. From my Virian Companions series, “The Window Man” is my favourite. There’s something indefinable about those two which elevate them above the rest, in my opinion.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Xanxa: I’m quite selfish as a writer. Primarily I write the sort of stories I want to read. I’m not one to follow trends. I write for the love of the craft, with the hope that others will enjoy my work. If they do, I count it as a bonus. I think the moment an author capitulates to the wishes of any reader, they lose something of themselves. The work is no longer their creative vision. It’s become a compromise.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
Xanxa: It’s a combination of both, really. With my fantasy novels, they’re in three series (so far). Each book can be read as a stand-alone, but there are common elements which carry over. They’re all set in the same fictional universe. Some characters appear in more than one book. I deliberately created them that way so that it’s not necessary to read all the books in the series. Many readers don’t necessarily want to commit to a whole series, so I’ve made mine flexible.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Xanxa: I’m in the midst of writing the third one in my Vyrdigaan Prophecies series, which will have four books altogether. I also have to do more rounds of revision and editing on the fourth novel in that series.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Xanxa: Writing a first draft energises me. I love the process of creating a story from nothing and getting to know my characters as I develop them. The part which exhausts me is marketing. I’m not a natural salesperson but it’s something I’ve had to learn as a self-published author.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Xanxa: I’d tell myself not to take so long about getting my work out there. Self-publishing wasn’t available when I first considered getting published, but I should have gotten on board with it as soon as it took off.
What do you have coming next?
Xanxa: “The Forbidden Sorceress” will be my next book. As I mentioned above, I’m working on the first draft of it at the moment. I hope to get it ready for publishing at some point this year. Following that, the final one in the series will be “Chimera Obscura”, which is in process of revision and editing.
Let's put up some links for your new fans before we give them A SAMPLE from "Malachi's Law"!
And now the excerpt!
From “Malachi’s Law” –Justeen’s first visit with her father in prison. I’ve added explanations in brackets because when reading this except cold and out of context, they wouldn’t make sense.
With a great effort, she spoke, trying not to sound too nervous. “Not just any visitor, ye know. I be Justeen Malacha Shanahan, yer dautri”. (Dautri = daughter)
Malachi laughed hoarsely and commented “Another cursed law student! Wanting to be interviewing me, eh? Mad Mal, the Lethal Lawyer, and sometime celebrity! Any idea how many fake dautrii I’ve seen since I’ve been here? All staring at me outa their earnest green eyes, all calling me Pa. If any of them had bothered to do their research properly, they’d have known that me Justeen has red eyes, not green”.
It was Justeen’s turn to laugh. “But I do have red eyes, see?” she said, removing the green contact lenses which Odo had given her. She held them close to the bars for his inspection, almost touching the glass panel. “Mestre Odo gave me these green lenses to wear for me journey up here, on account of folks being superstitious about Eledhrii like meself”. (Eledhrii refers to her sorcery powers, which readers would know if they’ve gotten to this point)
“Odo Babaloney, eh?” chuckled Malachi. “None of me other visitors has ever mentioned that name to me. And there can’t be many young girls with eyes that colour this far north. So, supposing I believe ye, why’ve ye come all this way to see yer old man, then?” A faint grin flickered at the corners of his thin mouth as he spoke.
Justeen considered her reply carefully. It was a valid question. His wife and children had apparently ignored him for the past eight years, so why should his daughter turn up now? “I’ve been wanting to see ye for ages, Pa” she said, giving in finally and addressing him directly as her father. It felt much better to be able to call him “Pa” at last. She had waited so long for this moment.
“So why wait so long?” Malachi enquired, fixing her with a penetrating stare.
“On account of Ma” Justeen answered, wiping away the tears which had sprang to her eyes. “She never wanted us to know the truth about ye. She burned the newspaper articles that I’d saved about ye, she forbade us to even speak about ye for the longest time. But I learned to be better at hiding the papers I’d saved, and Sean taught me how to be using the Temple computers to get access to legal databases. Also I did research in the public libraries with Uncle Lyle. I’ve read practically every word written about ye, even the trial transcript. I’ve missed ye, Pa. I’ve not come to feel sorry for ye, I won’t even pray for ye, unless ye want me to. I just wanted to see ye face to face, to talk with ye”.