Jul 22, 2010

Rowena Cory Daniells

After attending a fabulous workshop by Rowena Cory Daniells at last year's RWAus conference, I'm thrilled to have her here as a special guest at the Lovecats blog!

Welcome Rowena! First off, congratulations on your upcoming trilogy release: The Kings Bastard, The Uncrowned King & The Usurper.

Thanks Mel. To be honest, I edited all three books ( 3 levels of edits and each book is over 100K) in the first few months of this year and I’m just feeling relieved it is over. I’m sure the excitement will catch up with me.

Each book of ‘The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin’, are released a month apart—great news for us readers, but how are you feeling (g)?

LOL. I just answered your question. At the same time I was teaching 3 subjects at college, renovating my house and writing a new book. Why did I do this to myself?

How did the concept come about?

The books have been growing for ages now. I set out to write the kind of book that you curl up with on a Saturday afternoon after a hard week at work. The kind of book that you reward yourself with. So it is a traditional fantasy, in that it is a medieval setting about the struggle for the throne. But then I had fun playing with the tropes of the genre. Instead of the younger twin wanting to usurp his twin the heir, he’s happy to be the spare heir, that sort of thing.

World building is obviously integral to your fantasy trilogy. Can you tell us how you developed your character’s playground?

It is funny what inspires us and what stays with us. When I was about 10 my family went to play tennis at a set of courts in the back blocks of the Gold Coast. This was in the days when the holiday strip was not as gaudy and glitzy as it is now. My parents loved to play tennis and they told me to watch my little brothers, 8 and 5 and my sister 3. Behind the courts was a stretch of land backing onto a creek. There were white sand dunes, scrubby trees and it was the perfect place for us to play (in those far off days when kids ran wild most of the time).

As the eldest I was used to organising the games and I always saw myself as a sort of hero character so we'd play these long involved games with my younger siblings as my army, following orders, fighting great battles against enemy foes.

While running down one high white sand hill through the hollow into the next we left my little sister behind. Halfway up the next dune I turned around to find she'd run through the deepest part of the hollow and the sand, which appeared to be solid, had given way. She was knee deep in some sort of sticky sand-clay mix and couldn't get out. Having seen plenty of Tarzan movies, I immediately thought of quicksand.

A real emergency! I told my brothers to stay back, afraid that they'd get trapped too, and edged forward. The sand's surface broke up under my feet. It was cold and smooth and wet, and I didn't know what was under there. My eight year-old brother (who was almost as big as me) came and grabbed my arm to pull me out if I got stuck. I managed to grab our little sister's arm and hauled her out of the sticky sand-clay which did not give her up easily. Meanwhile the five year-old brother danced on the edge of the danger zone in desperate to help and likely to get himself into trouble.

End of story, she was fine and we kept on playing. I don't think we even told our parents about it, because by the time they finished playing tennis our game had moved on and that was old news. But I will always remember that sense of something under the ground opening up and proving dangerous.

In King Rolen's Kin power seeps up from the land's heart, infecting people and animals. Only those trained to contain this power go near Affinity Seeps. So a childhood adventure was inspiration for something in my book many years later. These days I don't order my younger brothers and sister about to play out my great battles, I have a cast of characters and they play out the battles in my books.

You’ve also had some speculative fiction work published, one of which won World Best Fantasy. Enquiring minds would love to know all about it?

Mel, I had a story in Dreaming Downunder, an anthology that won World Best Fantasy. So my story (hopefully) contributed in a small way to that win.

You’ve studied martial arts and the art of the samurai sword. Have you used this knowledge in any of your story telling?

I definitely have used my practical knowledge of martial arts in fight scenes. I’ve also done heaps of research into great military leaders, their battle strategies and what makes men willing to die for a leader. It is all part of building a believable character.

You have six children and have served on various writer committees. I’m guessing you are super organised! What is your writing routine?

Gah! My writing routine has been hopeless since I became an associate lecturer. I used to get up, get everyone off to school and work, then write with total concentration. Now I’m stealing every spare moment I can. The other night I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at 3am and wrote through until 6am when I had to start the morning routine. But you can’t do that too often.

And finally, if you could impart just one gem of wisdom for aspiring writers, what would it be?

Read widely in your genre and associated genres. Read the books that are shortlisted and win awards to see the direction your genre is taking. Read real life accounts for authenticity so you can bring something fresh to your genre. Join a writing group where the other members are as passionate about developing the craft of writing as you are.

And lastly, Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (Spec Fic fans will get the Galaxy Quest movie reference). More than one tip, I know but all are important.

Thanks so much Rowena, I can’t wait to read The King’s Bastard, out this month!

***Rowena has very kindly offered to give away 2 of her books to two lucky commentators!***

And the question is: In the King Rolen’s King trilogy there are places where power seeps up from the earth’s heart. What are these called?





  1. I believe those are called Affinity Seeps. I think your covers are wonderful and I'm very interested in reading this series.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  2. Thanks so much for sharing with us, Rowena. I'm awed by the number of balls you keep in the air.
    You must get your stories pretty right, first draft, given how much you are doing. Are you a plotter? The series sounds complex.

  3. Thanks for such a great interview, Rowena. Love the idea of a book you can curl up and escape with and the childhood drama which became the inspiration for the books was fascinating.

    Congratulations on your trilogy.

    Oh, and power seeps up from the earth's heart at Affinity Seeps.

    And good question about plotting, Zana.

  4. Ladies, don't you just love the Inigo kitten?

    Princess Bride is one of my favourite movies.

  5. Zana Bell, I make lists. It is the only way I can keep doing everything. I long for the day that I do nothing but write.

    Get it right firs time? I wish. I write and re-write and re-write and ...

    You get the picture.

  6. Rowena, how fabulous to have you here at the Lovecats! The King Rolen's Kin books sound fascinating - so detailed and complex so I could just sink into their world.

    Loved your story about your sister in the sand and how that spawned a whole world. Will there be more books in that world after these three, or are you moving to somewhere different?

    And I love "Never Give Up! Never Surrender!" and the movie.

  7. Rowena, you have 6 children plus a day job AND a trilogy coming out? OMG, I'd need more than lists! (Do you take multivitamins? Cos I'll have what you're having).

    Love the vision of you and your siblings as an army topping a sand dune and fighting the good fight. Thanks for sharing how you developed your fantasy world -- it's fascinating!

  8. Rachel, my new trilogy is The First T'En. Thee three books will be released in 2012.

    Now all I have to do is find the time to polish them and and hand them in!

  9. Michelle, it would be great if I didn't have to sleep!

    Sorry about the last reply. I should have selected an identity to post from. Will try to get it right this time.

  10. Affinity Seeps for the answer.

    Rowena, I love your Bookguard in the photo! It's always amazing how an experience, smell or event sparks off a whole new world.

  11. Rowena,
    Thanks for the great interview, I'm still blown away by how much you fit into your life - with six children!!
    Is The First T'En related to your first trilogy?

  12. Hi Rowena -- lovely to see you here on LoveCats! Your trilogy sounds great (I particularly love the idea of the affinity seeps). I look forward to reading it! Solaris do great covers, don't they?

    Cheers (from one Solaris author to another...)

  13. Great interview, Rowena! I love medieval fantasies. And I often use that Galaxy Quest quote!!! It's become my mantra :-)

    The answer to the question is Affinity Seeps.

  14. Nicky,

    The cat helps me write by walking in front of the screen and meowing until I put her on my lap.

  15. Mel the new trilogy is a prequel to the Last T'En.

    Verry excited!

  16. Hi Emily,

    Yes, Solaris were great about the covers. Kudos to the artist, Clint Langley.

  17. Christina, my other favourite movie to quote is The Princess Bride. That's what I had to laugh when I saw the kitten doing Inigo's revenge speech.

  18. Welcome to the LoveCats, Rowena! I particularly enjoyed your story about playing with your siblings and having to rescue your sister. Fantastic that it sowed the seeds for this trilogy.

    Great interview, Rowena and Mel!


  19. Sharon,

    As a writer you often don't realise what has influenced you. It all sinks in and bubbles up from your subconscious.