Writing Fantasy with Toni Cox author of Elemental Trilogy

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*Your dream from a young age has been to put your imagination into words. Is it as easy as you thought it would be?

Dreaming? Definitely! Putting them into words? Not so much, hahaha. I have stories enough (they are piling up like a TBR list on my laptop), and simply not enough time to write them (yet). I still have a full-time job, so I write, do marketing, editing, and everything else book related after hours and weekends. It is like having a second and third job… but I love every moment of it.

This year I will be branching out into dystopian fantasy, as well as starting a new dragon series. I will also release another one of my Elemental short stories, and partake in an Anthology. My word target for this year is just over half a million words. This is about 3-4 books, plus the short story and anthology. Once I can write full-time, and have someone that can handle more of the marketing for me, I will aim for a word target of one million words, just to catch up with the number of books that are already outlined and ready to write on my laptop.

Otherwise, I may still be writing by the time I turn 100!

 

 

 

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*Describe the decision to follow your dream after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis.

The first thing the doctors do when someone is diagnosed with an incurable disease is, prescribe anti-depressants. I took them for a whole 3 days and then took them back to my doctor. I thought there must be something more to life than pills. My family saw me through that very tough first year and it was because of them that I had the courage to say, hey, let’s try something new. Being unable to function like a healthy person; and deteriorating steadily; makes you think about the future a lot. I do not want to be a burden to my husband and children by the time I am unable to go to work any more. So, what is it that I love almost as much as my family? BOOKS! One day I just picked up a pen and a notepad and I started writing. All those stories and dreams I had had from when I was young just poured out and Elemental Rising happened. It felt liberating.

 

 

*What makes a great fantasy book?

Benjamin, that is a terribly broad question, lol. In my eyes… DRAGONS! But, no, there are a number of things that can drive a good fantasy story. A fantasy book can be character driven, or plot driven, or even both. Either way, for me, what makes a good fantasy book is how involved you become when you read the story. Do the characters, or does the plot, draw you in? Are you invested in their actions? I do like the dragons and strange creatures of fantasy, but if the characters and the plot leave me cold, then the book soon ends up on DNF (did not finish) pile.

 

 

 

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*How do you approach writing? Structure, pantsing, or both?

Hmm… that is a very difficult question to answer because I think I may be neither. I thought I was a plotter (structure) but then caught myself pantsing, until Sian B. Claven (we work together) pointed out that what I was doing wasn’t really pantsing either. I do A LOT of research before I start writing. Often even while I am writing. I make notes on all the research, character names, character description, setting, animals, and so forth. Then, I usually do a “word vomit”.  This is where I write the entire story out in short sentences over a space of 2-6 A4 pages. By hand usually. This will then form the skeleton, or the backbone, of my story.

From this backbone, I devise a rough timeline. (This is especially important for me as I write on a large scale and I have seasonal changes that I need to take into account, as well as numerous plot lines that need to tie up at various points of the story.)

And then, I write. I write slowly and methodically. I put in paragraph breaks. Dot my i’s, cross my t’s. I pretty much edit as I write. As I write it, it usually goes straight to my editor without me having to do rewrites. It is a slower writing process but takes less editing time.

I have yet to meet someone else that write like I do, lol.

 

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*Who is Maia,

Elf princess of Elveron, and why does she want to become a Prime Elemental?

When I first dreamed up Maia, I was still very young. I wanted to be just like her. Young, strong, beautiful, powerful, yet humble, protective, and innocent. It turned out to be quite difficult to write a character that is that strong and has that much power to be humble as well. And, Maia does not want to be a Prime. She was born a Prime. But, you know the saying: With great power comes great responsibility? So, a Prime isn’t given her power all at once. She has to learn to wield it first and as she grows stronger, the more magic grows within her. She meets another Prime during the telling of the trilogy. Primes are rare and it usually spells disaster when two meet. She is Life, he is Death. He is fully trained, she is not. The power struggle is real, so is the threat. Maia has to look deep within herself to unlock the magic to save them all.

 

 

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*How do you craft and develop your characters?

People have history. They are shaped, made into what they are today, by what has happened to them in the past. If you know their history, you know them as a person. So first, I try to set up their past. It usually goes hand in hand with world building. Let’s say I create a city. Within the city, there are 1000 households. I then make a list of all the professions that make an appearance in my novel… princess, servant, blacksmith, hunter, etc. … and then create a family for each of these, giving them a background and history. Then, when I write, the character has depth, and isn’t simply a name and placeholder.  (In the Elemental Trilogy, there are close to 70 professions)

 

*What have you learned from creating settings for your books?

Don’t. Forget. To. Write. The. Book!

I absolutely LOVE world building. I could spend hours on just setting up the perfect mountainside hideaway, with a cabin, a lake, tall pine, a waterfall, … see, lost already. But, saying that, settings do set the tone. You can have wonderful characters and a great plot, but if they hover in this constant grey cloud of nothingness, the story will eventually get boring.  I have learned that finding a happy medium between overwhelming the reader with information, and not telling him anything is pretty much where you want to be. I like to show the reader my world but leave just enough for the imagination for the reader to make the world his own.

 

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*If we were to travel to Elveron what would it be like?

All 11 Life Planets of the Milky Way have similarities to Earth. Some more so than others but, they all have an atmosphere, water, landmasses, people, and animals. Elveron is slightly smaller than Earth. It has no oceans, only lakes. Three of these lakes are salt lakes. The climate is similar to Earth, but the vegetation, the people, and the animals are all slightly different. The people, for instance, differ from Humans by 1 chromosome or so, making them Elves.  I started with the story about Maia and Elveron because it is the place where I would like to live. It is pure, untouched by pollution, industry, overpopulation, and all the things that we are making Earth endure.

 

*What bearing does the nation of Grildor have on the story?

Maia is still very young, only 122 years old. Due to some misunderstandings early in her life, she assumed that it was expected of her to become a Prime as soon as possible. (The average age for the initiation ceremony is 250 years old). So, when she returns from her final test, she takes her ceremony to become a Prime. But, young and inexperienced as she is, when they are suddenly threatened her angst is overwhelming. She believes she is not strong enough, not good enough, not powerful enough. Only the love for her people, the nation of Grildor, drives her forward. Through all her trials and tribulations, it is what keeps her going time and again.

 

 

*What’s are the hardest things about writing fantasy?

You got me there… I think it must be answering interview questions, hahaha.

I don’t know, Benjamin. I love writing fantasy. Love every aspect of it. With every book I write, I get better at it. I cannot see myself doing anything else.

 

*Name some good fantasy books you’ve read recently.

Bentwhistle the Dragon – by Paul Cude

Requiem: Song of Dragons – by Daniel Arenson

The Rain Wild Chronicles – by Robin Hobb

The Rhenwars Saga – by M.L. Spencer

 

 

*What’s next for you?

2019 – on paper, it looks to be an exciting year.

Up next: LUKE – book 4 of the Elemental short stories

Then: The submission to the anthology (cannot say much about it yet… shhh)

And: DRAGONLORE: MASTER OF LEGENDS – book 1

Followed by: RESILIENT – my first dystopian fantasy novel  

After that, we will see how much there is left of the year. I will either release another of the Elemental short stories, another Dragonlore, or, if time lets me, the first book of my new Trilogy set in the Milky Way – this time on the planet Pud.

THANKS TONI!!

 

 

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Born in Germany in 1976, Toni Cox moved to South Africa in 1991. Although she has spent much of her working career in the timber wholesale business, she is also an accomplished horse rider, has a diploma in project management, photography, and nutrition, and has a passion for books and all things fantasy.

From a young age, her dream had always been to put her imagination into words – give the stories life. When she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2013, she decided life is too short not to follow her dream. So, with the support of her husband and three children, she began writing book 1 of the Elemental Trilogy in January 2015.

Toni Cox writes: Epic Fantasy – The Milky Way Chronicles (including The Elemental Trilogy), Young Adult Fantasy – (including The Elemental Short Stories), Sci-Fi Fantasy – The Andromeda Saga, Fantasy – The Dragonlore Series, Dystopian Fantasy – these are set on Earth, the first one (Resilient) will be released in 2019.

 

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Let’s Talk Fantasy with Author Joshua Robertson

 

 

LETS TALK FANTASY

WITH TALENTED AUTHOR JOSHUA ROBERTSON

 

 

 

 

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Joshua Robertson was born in Kingman, Kansas on May 23, 1984. A graduate of Norwich High School, Robertson attended Wichita State University where he received his Masters in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Sociology. His bestselling novel, Melkorka, the first in The Kaelandur Series, was released in 2015. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He counts R.A. Salvatore and J.R.R. Tolkien among his literary influences.

www.crimsonedgepress.com
www.facebook.com/AuthorJoshuaRobertson
@robertsonwrites

 

 

WELCOME!

 

 

 

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THE KAELANDUR SERIES

 

 

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Melkorka, the first in The Kaelandur Series

 

 

 

 

 

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Dyndaer, the second in the Kaelandur Series

 

 

 

 

 

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Anaerfell

 

 

 

 

*What is your definition of fantasy?
My definition of fantasy literature does not drift too far from the typical explanation. Fantasy must have supernatural elements in the theme, setting, or plot of the story. Some writers like to include magic, and others may have a simple make-believe worlds to play inside. Regardless, I think fantasy should take a reader on an adventure they cannot experience anywhere else.
They always say simplicity is bliss. I love this definition. 
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*What are your favorite elements that make a great fantasy book?
Likely, the same thing as most good novels, but most of all, it must have dynamic characters. Fantasy has shown promise with the rise of books that drift away from the dichotomy of good and evil, and really explore the motivations of the protagonist and antagonist. In this way, we see multi-faced characters who have mixed elements of right and wrong, which makes a much more believable story…in a fantastical world.
Yes, I’m hearing this more and more. We tend to be drawn more to characters that seem to blur the lines between good and evil. 
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*How were you influenced by RA Salvatore & JRR Tolkien? 
Tolkien I started reading around the age of 13 or 14, and continued re-reading through the course of my high school career. We know how impressionable the mind of a teenager can be…and I was a sponge for his words, characters, and philosophy. A couple years after reading Tolkien, I delved into many other great writers, such as Salvatore. The man’s description of battles were so real, I often finished the book with a serious sense of awe. Nowadays, after having a few interactions with Salvatore, I also admire his kindness, straightforwardness, and humanness.
That’s awesome. I love hearing about this, the impression that authors make upon readers in their early years. I guess you never know how your words might affect others!
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*Does fantasy have to include magic to be successful?
Absolutely not. I have read many great stories without a hint of magic that were exceptional and stuck with me. I think the quality of a book is measured by the impression it has on your life after you have put it down. Without a doubt, you can achieve this without having magic included, even in fantasy literature.
Wonderful! My project is somewhat of a science fiction fantasy mashup, but without magic. I have several fantastical elements within it though. 
*What are your favorite creatures?
Strangely enough, even as a Tolkien fan, I am not a huge fan of Tolkien creatures. In fact, the only time I really delve into elves, dwarves, etc., is when I am reading Tolkien, or playing a good ole’ game of Dungeons and Dragons. If I had to choose a favorite fantasy creature on the spot, it would be a dryad. Though, I have never considered writing a story focusing on their kind. I don’t think I could do it justice.
I’ve often thought of crafting my own creatures rather than going along with the norm. Never even heard of a dryad. Trolls are pretty cool too.
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*Tell us about Anaerfell
Anaerfell is a dark fantasy tale about two brothers who are trapped beneath the ambitions of their father. Drast and Tyran were raised in a harsh home, offering them little grace and even less love. As a result, you see two grown men who are haunted by their own psychological and emotional demons, struggling to make the ‘right’ decisions. The story unfolds as their father sends them on a journey to kill the God of the Dead in hopes it will grant him immortality.
I absolutely adore the names that you come up with in your books. In fact, my first impression when reading your work was, THIS IS FANTASY.  It’s almost the same as test driving a car for the first time. As soon as you step into the vehicle; grab the steering wheel, start the engine and pull out onto the road that it’s the car for you. Hey, it’s fantasy on wheels!
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*What is the connection between Anaerfell & the Kaelandur Series?
Excellent question. Anaerfell takes place 80 years prior to the events in Melkorka, the first of the Kaelandur Series. The book, although a standalone, is written to be a prelude to the series, giving breadth to why the characters in the Kaelandur Series are facing the deadly threats of the Netherworld.
*What is Grimsdalr about?
Grimsdalr is a short story meant to highlight how hubris is regarded in modern society when compared to the norms of olden times. The story is a rewritten, 30-minute read masking the opening pages of Beowulf keeping much of the same tone and language of the original tale.
Grimsdalr is another excellent name by the way….Just read this and the ending was very striking and totally wasn’t what I was expecting. Stellar writing that reminded me of Beowulf. LOVE BEOWULF. That’s my boy!
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Grimsdalr

*Who are your favorite characters and what do you appreciate about them? 
I have answered this question often, and I think my answer continues to strike folks as strange. But my favorite character in my series is the antagonist, Falmagon. I appreciate his commitment to his beliefs and his intent to make the world a better place, regardless of whether others support his cause. Of course, I also have a special place in my heart for my cliche’d, all-knowing, often-drunk wizard, Dorofej. Many have called him the Gandalf of the Kaelandur Series.
I can totally relate to this. I love my antagonists and evil henchmen! BROUHAHAHA! In Transformers, Megatron was my favorite. In Star Wars, it was Darth Vader. In my WIP there’s several antagonists that are my FAVS. Here are a few:
Lord Gracious, twin brother of Brynn Talegan. 
Barag, Lord of the Dark Vein of Evil
Pronvis, General in the Dark Vein of Evil
Grand Morticus, High Priest of the Dark Vein of Evil
Grane, the Unmerciful Death Lord
*What are your top 3 favorite weapons?
I am a simple man. Give me a quarterstaff, a good set of throwing knives, and a longbow.
Simple enough. 
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*What top 5 books would you recommend?
The Crown of Stone Trilogy by C.L. Schneider
Dolor and Shadow by Angela B. Chrysler
Wolves of the Dawn by William Sarabande
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Thanks for the references!
*What else do you have coming down the pike?
I am currently finishing up Blood and Bile with my co-writer, J.C. Boyd. This dark fantasy tale will be introducing his ancient world, beginning with giants walking with mammoths in the northern lands battling dark spirits.In addition, I should be finishing Maharia, the third and final installment of the Kaelandur Series, and ready for release by April 2017.
Thanks so much for having me for an interview! These questions were excellently crafted.
Awesome! Thanks for coming on the train.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

http://www.thewritingtrain.com