Name Shawna Reppert
Where are you from West Reading, PA originally. Spent about a decade in Portland, OR, and now live in the wine country of Oregon, about an hour out of Portland (note to interviewer: I avoid giving the exact town because I live alone and have had issues in the past with stalkers.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I have a B.A. in English, Create Writing Option, from Penn State University, and two-thirds of a law degree from Lewis and Clark, where the most important thing I learned is that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.
Most of my real education came from critique groups and workshops. I’ve taken workshops and seminars with the likes of Charles de Lint, Donald Maass, Elizabeth Lyon, David Farland and others.
Since my family remains on the East Coast, my social circle consists of Irish trad musicians and dancers and the people who love them, and various geeks I met along the way. My four-footed children are a Lipizzan stallion (Pluto III Canada, AKA Celeborn) and a black-and-orange cat named Samhain who occasionally takes over my blog.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Oh, wow. It’s been a busy time! I’m currently running a crowdsource fundraising campaign to pay for the editing of the third novel of my award-winning Ravensblood series. I hope to release Raven’s Heart in early February, 2016.
Raven’s Song, a novella in the Ravensblood universe, appears in the recently-released anthology Here Be Magic, which is doing quite well on the Amazon charts. At one point, it reached #2 in the category of SF and Fantasy Anthologies for Kindle.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
One of my earliest memories was from before I even learned to read and write, so I must have been what? Four or less? They started us later back in those days. Anyway, it would have shortly after I figured out that people made up the stories in books. I tried to get my mother to take down a story I was dictating, so it could become a book. As I recall, it lacked something in plot and character arc.
I have always been intrigued by the power of storytelling. I can’t imagine not wanting to make up and share stories.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Shortly after my divorce, I had a brief online flirtation with a very minor scriptwriter working in the Star Trek TV series. At that point, my confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low. I had made several attempts and novels and short stories, and had failed to make a sale. I said something to him about wanting to be a writer.
He answered immediately. No. You don’t want to be a writer. You write, and therefore you are a writer. Just because you haven’t sold anything yet doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.
I will always be grateful to him for that shot of encouragement at a time when I badly needed it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll talk about my first published novel here, rather than trying to figure out which of my several proto-novels count. The initial idea for The Stolen Luck came out of two separate conversations with two separate friends. One conversation was about common tropes in bad online fiction and how one could turn those tropes around to produce a serious piece of fiction worth reading. Another conversation was about the evil in power imbalance is not just what it does to the one on who is powerless, but what it does to the soul of the one in power. Add in the story question of how far even a good man will go to protect the people and home he loves, simmer over a weekend spent snowed in in a hotel room because the pipes in my house had frozen, and you have the beginning of a novel.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Doesn’t every writer? Readers have called my prose lyrical, which could be all that Celtic traditional music showing through. Often my writing is called somewhat dark, which I’m not sure I agree with. Yes, dark things happen in the books, but to my mind the books are more about overcoming the darkness than the darkness itself.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I’m assuming you’re asking about the upcoming novel? All of the works in the Ravensblood series so far have Raven somewhere in the title. (Except for one short story, Preservation in Time of War, but that’s sold as part of a two-fer of short stories called Duet for Ravens, so it still sort of fits.) I was a bit hesitant about the title, since I didn’t want the novel to be mistaken for a romance. (There are romantic elements in the books, but they are not romances!) The name fit though, because the book is, in part, about Raven’s heart (not in the romantic sense, but in the sense of compassion, loyalty, and friendship) and whether it is a strength or a weakness.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
One has to be careful in answering that sort of question. Nothing is worse than a book that reads like an After-School Special: And the moral of the story, kiddies. . . I feel like I’ve done my job if I’ve gotten my readers to think about things like redemption and absolution, about making decisions when there are no clear rights and wrongs, about prejudice of all kinds. And because my writing is a reflection of my own heart and soul, it can’t help but be colored with things like my rage over acts of terrorism and all the people who have died in wars over stupid things like how people choose to worship, or to further the economic interests of the fortunate few.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
The Ravensblood series is set in an alternate-universe version of Portland, OR and environs. I have had a great deal of fun weaving together the real and the imaginary and having the readers guess which is which
I include in the novels, starting with Raven’s Wing, a little blurb on what is real and what is altered, including, in the e-book version, relevant hyperlinks. There is also a photo essay in my blog on some of the locations in Portland where the real universe and the imaginary overlap.
Obviously, the magic in the book isn’t real. And because the existence of openly-practiced magic has affected the history of the alternate world, the political structure is different. But I try to make the people and their actions and reactions as real and believable as possible. One of the workshops I attended was taught by a psychologist and a stage actor, and involved applying the principles of method acting to writing fiction.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think if you write honestly, everything you write is based on your own experiences. How could it be otherwise? But if you write well, you choose and blend and tint those experiences into something wholly new.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Too many to name. Tolkien taught me to love fantasy. Charles de Lint taught me how to bring it into the real world. The original Star Wars series taught me you can still tell grand, heroic tales and get away with it. The various incarnations of Star Trek gave me the courage to write about people nobler, more moral (in the secular, not religious sense of the word) and purer of intention than the average modern man-on-the-street.
One of my most influential mentors is writer and teacher Eric M Witchey, who not only taught me to write, but taught me how to learn to write. He’s taught at workshops across the United States, and if you ever get a chance to learn from him, do it. The man is a genius.
And of course, my editor Mary Rosenblum, who has applied the right blend of patience and tough love throughout the Ravensblood series. Truly a phenomenal teacher and very generous with her time and talents.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Alastair Stone Chronicles by R. L. King. Alternate-universe urban fantasy, although a bit closer to the ‘real world’ than Ravensblood. I adore her protagonist. Smart, snarky, sexy, well-educated, with just the right touch of vulnerability. And a British ex-pat, to boot!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
L. King, as mentioned above. E.M. Prazemen, who writes a very dark, alternate-world sort-of-steampunky, sort-of-Elizabethan fantasy. What I like about her series in particular is her matter-of-fact presentation of various sexual orientations without making a big deal about it. Ditto Rhys Ford in her Black Dog Blues, which has great story tension and character-building even if the style could use a little tweaking. (Maybe now that gay marriage is legal in most of the civilized world we can accept that same-sex relationships are just relationships and move on?)
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Besides the last final polish on Raven’s Heart? I have a steampunk Victorian detective novel that I’d like to bring out of the virtual trunk and indie-publish, starting that series. There’s another medieval same-sex fantasy romance in early stages. R. L.King and I have been playing with a possible collaboration, a crossover between the world of Ravensblood and that of the Alastair Stone Chronicles. There will be more coming in the Ravensblood world, as well.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The world of Irish music and dance has been incredibly supportive of my career. Musician friends of mine play my book launches and make my trailers for free, and a lot of my friends from dance show up at my book launches and buy books.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. I am not yet at the point where I can quit my day job, but I’m determined to get there.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
From Raven’s Heart:
Ok, so for those of you who haven’t read the first two books of the Ravensblood series, we’re in a *very* alternate version of the Pacific Northwest. Magic is real and openly acknowledged.
Raven’s Heart is the third full novel in the series—there’s a novella as well that just came out as part of an anthology. The section you’re about hear is from a manuscript that has not yet had its full edit.
Forgive the spoilers , by the way, for those of you who haven’t read the first two books yet, but I want to set the stage. As we begin this story, Cass and Raven are engaged. Cass has been promoted from her former job as a Guardian—magical law enforcement—to Guardian International Investigations. GII handles the complicated cases that are beyond the scope and abilities of the local Guardians, and tends to hire misfits and eccentrics, sometimes with questionable pasts.
Several nights ago, while Cass was away on GII business, Raven went out to the opera with his friend Josiah the bookseller, and on the way home encountered an abandoned kitten getting soaked in the rain. It was a case of powerful former dark mage v. scrawny stray kitten in a battle of wills. As you might expect, the kitten won.
As this section begins, Cass is just getting home from her trip.
Cass dropped her bags inside the door, tired and glad to be home. She’d taken the first flight out of Sea-Tac and caught a Mundane cab from the airport—too far to teleport with a week’s baggage if she had another choice, especially after getting up way too early to check out of the hotel and catch her flight. She could have taken a later plane, but while she liked doing training, with William loose the atmosphere had been tense and the week focused. She missed home and Raven.
Strange to think of this centuries-old Georgian mansion as home. It showed more the taste of the Ravenscroft ancestors than her own. Not that she didn’t admire the Victorian furniture that looked like it belonged in a museum. If the color of the wallpaper was a bit more staid than she might have chosen, it suited the house, and the house suited Raven. Because she loved him, she also loved it. Even if she privately thought that a deep burgundy on the walls would suit the gold velvet just as well as the pale cream, and make the sitting room look less like a movie set.
Though it was nearly noon, she found the paper on the porch and Raven at the breakfast table. Her lover had never been one for early mornings. He wore a deep blue velvet smoking jacket that would have looked utterly ridiculous on most men, but seemed perfectly right on Raven, especially here in the breakfast room of the centuries-old Georgian mansion that his ancestors had built. The color complimented his black hair and dark eyes, and the style revealed a bare chest beneath. There was so much to her lover—keen intelligence, dry humor, complicated and difficult past—that it was easy to forget that he was also a stunningly beautiful man.
She paused for a moment in the doorway, admiring his cheekbones and the strong, raptor-like nose that gave his face character and kept it from the realm of too-pretty. He noticed her scrutiny and looked up, asking with his eyes what she was studying. Even as she smiled and shook her head, she started to consider how best to persuade him back to bed and whether or not she would let him finish his breakfast first.
As she crossed the room to kiss him hello, something small and white skittered across the floor, and she jumped back with a start.
“How did a cat get in—oh,” she finished, looking down the hall to the kitchen, from where the kitten had come. Two small stainless-steel bowls lined up neatly next to the evercool box, one containing water, the other dried cat food.
“This is sudden,” she ventured, sitting across from him at the table and stealing a slice of his toast. “I never knew you wanted a pet. What’s its name?”
“Nuisance,” he said without looking up from buttering the remaining slice of toast.
“I brought the paper in,” she said, handing it to him before scooping up the kitten scaling her jeans and settling it on her lap.
As he unfolded the paper, she started to get acquainted with the kitten. It was an odd little thing, with mismatched irregular blotches of color on its coat and a strange, angular face. Possibly a Siamese had had something to do with its genetics way back, but it lacked any semblance of Siamese elegance. Funny, she would have imagined him with a sleek purebred, a Burmese or a Bombay, if she imagined him with any kind of cat at all.
There was more to the story, there had to be, but she knew from experience that patience would bring it out soonest. Undoubtedly, the tale would be worth the wait.
Raven dropped both the paper and his toast. “Oh, gods.” He’d gone white.
Cold washed over her. “What is it?”
Wordlessly, he handed her the unfolded paper so she could read the full headline. Burned Body found in Bookseller’s Shop in Uptown Shopping District—Dark Magic Suspected.
The picture showed Josiah’s Books cordoned off with police tape.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Covers—every writer’s nightmare.
For my debut novel, The Stolen Luck, since it came out with a publisher, they chose the cover design. I was very lucky to get a beautiful cover appropriate to the book.
When I went indie with Ravensblood, I bought a stock image and did the cover myself. With the second book of the series, the trick was to match the first cover in style. I was very fortunate to find an artist that could do the work, and even more fortunate to have a reader donate the funds to pay the artist!
Where Light Meets Shadow, my second high fantasy stand-alone, was originally supposed to come out with a publisher. While I left over editorial differences, the cover they were going to give me didn’t help! It was NSFW and totally inappropriate to the genre. With money tight, I bought another stock image and had a go of it. In my defense, it was better than what the publisher was going to give me. I asked a friend-of-a-friend to maybe tweak the font and add some knotwork. She politely suggested that we start from scratch. Something like 20 drafts later, we had one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen.
Clearly a glutton for punishment, she volunteered to do my future covers as well. The cover for Raven’s Heart is an attempt to keep the overall feel of the series while making the cover more readable and eye-catching, and I think she did a great job!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Too many for my own good! As I mentioned, I own a horse. I used to be a fairly serious dressage rider, but after some changes in focus and some (non-horse-related!) ailments and injuries, I’m just a pleasure rider. Though very occasionally I do throw on medieval garb, and we go out and play war horse.
I love Irish social dance and going out to live Irish music. On the latter, I often compromise and take my laptop to whatever house or pub has a session on and write while my friends play.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Doctor Who. I’ve been a Whovian since I was a kid and the original series was running on PBS. I love Brit Coms, films based on Jane Austen novels, and any of the Marvel movies that have Loki.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Dark chocolate. Prime Rib. Jameson’s whiskey. Purple. Celtic traditional primarily. Classical and classic rock when the mood takes me.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Also, my author page on Amazon is: www.amazon.com/Shawna-Reppert/e/B00957U8KG
My Indiegogo campaign can be found here: