Anne Barwell on writing mythic places and magic men, and a sweet excerpt from *Magic’s Muse*

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Sequel to Cat’s Quill
Hidden Places: Book Two

Tomas and Cathal have escaped from Naearu, Cathal’s mystical homeworld, but happily ever after is never as straightforward in real life as it is in books. Then again, most people don’t deal with the complication of a lover who’s magically bound to a tree or have an interfering cat for a cousin.

With Naearu’s police force, the Falcons, still after Cathal, he can’t go home. Now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship, Cathal’s abilities are evolving and changing to the point that Tomas can sense them. And until the oak portal closes, Cathal—and his new life with Tomas—are in limbo, as Cathal can’t expect Tomas to stay with someone who can never venture past the property line. Will he and Tomas ever get to follow through on their engagement?

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn’t away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.


The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: I need a title to start writing, and planning a story. The same with characters, although some of them change until they feel ‘right’, while others just turn up and that’s who they are. It’s the same with titles; some stories just come complete with a title, others I have to hunt for them until I know I have the right one. For the characters who aren’t so cooperative, I use name sites, and often the meaning behind the name is the final decider.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Magic’s Muse is set in a small English village called Oakwood which is on the outskirts of London. It doesn’t exist, although it draws inspiration from similar places. When I had the idea for Cat’s Quill, I knew it had to be an English village because of the feel of it, and the history. Setting it here wouldn’t have worked, we don’t have the mythology and history I needed – which is expanded upon more in Magic’s Muse. The fun part of this series is going to be in the last book when they return to Cathal’s home world of Naearu, a land which has embraced magic rather than science.

Often when I get an idea for a story, the location comes with it. The Echoes series was dictated by history as it’s set in WW2, and when I wrote Slow Dreaming I knew it would be set locally, and the Petone foreshore was perfect for the beach scenes.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: *laughs* That sounds like I get a choice in the matter. I like to outline my stories, but have found out the hard way that it’s best just to ‘signpost’ those, as things always change I start writing as the characters run with it, and often in the opposite direction. When I was writing Shadowboxing I had a particular idea as to how a certain scene was going to go. Kit disagreed, and the writing stopped flowing until I backed down and gave him what he wanted. Still, outlines are nice, and I like a few illusions

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
a: I like exploring relationships, and how various situations impact on people and those they care about. In writing gay relationships, I don’t have to worry about gender stereotypes, and can focus on the characters without any of that stuff. Also, they are the characters who turn up and want their story written, so I just go with the flow. I write what I want to read, and it’s great to able to add to a genre I enjoy reading.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: It makes my day when readers want to discuss what I’ve written and I know they’ve enjoyed and got involved with my characters and storyline. I do work some ideas from readers into my stories. My current story about dragons came about because of a comment TJ Klune made in a chat, asking what fairy story I’d like to re-write. It’s kind of a George and the dragon story except that Georgia is the prince’s sister, and the dragon―well that would be telling.

The next installment of Hidden Places is called One Word, and came about in part because a friend at work read Cat’s Quill and wanted to make sure I was going to give Donovan his own happy ending. This is his and Ethan’s story.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: An open relationship, where the author is free to be true to what she/he wants to write, and where readers feel free to give honest constructive reviews. Emphasis on constructive. It saddens me that as writers, if a reader reviews a story (which often sounds nothing like what we’ve actually written) an author often doesn’t feel as though she/he can reply to it. Tactful honesty should be a two way street. As a reader I love to be able to chat to authors about what they’ve written, and the same is true in reverse.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I take a lot from a well thought out constructive review. While it’s impossible to write something that is going to please everyone, knowing that my characters have got under someone’s skin is a great feeling even if they don’t always agree with what the characters have done. It means I’ve succeeded. It’s also a good heads up for ‘okay that didn’t work’ so I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: You expect me to choose? That’s something that is going to change the more I write, and depends whom I’m writing at the moment. I do admit, however, for having a soft spot for Michel in Shadowboxing. He has a lot of depth to his character, is very self-aware, and ready to take risks to protect the people he cares about. Plus he’s very easy on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt. Simon in The Sleepless City is coming very close though, and then there’s Aric and Denys who―stopping now while I’m ahead as I’m getting glared at by several SOs.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: From Slow Dreaming:

Moments in time,” Sean sang softly, letting his breath brush over Jason’s skin. Was that what the two of them were? Moments in time, overlapping for just a few days? Unable to resist, he followed the outline of the tattoo with the tip of his tongue.

Jason groaned loudly. “Make love to me, Sean,” he whispered. “Take me, please.” He reached behind him, searching for Sean’s hand, linking their fingers together. “I want to be able to see you, though. I want to be able to remember this, to remember you like this.”

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: My current WIP is A Knight to Remember, a fantasy story complete with dragons, and a quest for a sword. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the year. Next year I’m planning to work on Winter Duet which is the sequel to Shadowboxing, and a couple of projects with other Dreamspinner authors. The Sleepless City is an urban fantasy series―with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more―but with a few twists, I’m writing with Elizabeth Noble. We’re aiming to have the first two books finished at the same time (we’re writing one each), to start the series with a good-sized introduction for readers. I’m also co-writing The Harp and the Sea, a historical story, with magic, set in Scotland, with Lou Sylvre. (LS—Yeah! *claps hands*

I seriously need more hours in the day…

Excerpt from Magic’s Muse

Cathal smiled. He removed the pencil from behind Tomas’s ear and placed it on the desk. He’d chewed the end of it again. “What I’ve read of it so far is very good, and I’m not just saying that because I love you.”

Cathal smiled. He removed the pencil from behind Tomas’s ear and placed it on the desk. He’d chewed the end of it again. “What I’ve read of it so far is very good, and I’m not just saying that because I love you.”

“That’s good to know.” Tomas threaded his fingers through Cathal’s hair, playing with it. Cathal had suggested shortening the length, as it was longer than what he’d observed to be the norm in this world, but Tomas would have none of it. He liked it the way it was, so unless it was something Cathal really wanted to do, there was no need for it to be cut. Apparently there was a wider variety now in what was considered fashionable than there was the previous time he’d visited. He’d worn it longer then too, and no one had commented, although he’d noticed the sideways looks he and Christian had received because of their dress and manner of speech.

“Can I read what you’ve written today?” Cathal was keen to see how the story was progressing. It was very different being able to read something as it was written, rather than having to wait until it was finished. It reminded him of when he was a child and his mother would tell them a story by the fire each night, careful to leave it in such a place so they’d want more.

“Of course.” Tomas leaned over and tapped several keys on his laptop. A whirring sound filled the room, and the printer began to spit out pieces of paper covered in writing. He’d shown Cathal how the machine worked earlier that morning. With every visit to this world, it seemed as though the devices they used became smaller and could do so much more. There were still so many new things to learn about and discover. Even the technology with which he thought he was familiar had changed, although he hadn’t had the opportunity to ask as many questions as he’d like. Taking things apart to find out more had gotten him into trouble ninety years ago, and he wasn’t about to test the theory that it might again.

Cathal got up from Tomas’s lap and retrieved the papers once the machine had done its work. He flopped down on the bed, already beginning to read what was written on them and losing himself in the words. “Oh, you’ve written the kiss!” This was what he and Tomas had role played, and the last time he’d seen it had been as handwritten notes in Tomas’s journal. Now Tomas was “taking dictation again”, he’d reverted to using his laptop instead of writing longhand, as he said it was faster and easier to edit later.

“And more.” Tomas didn’t move from his chair but instead watched Cathal read, chuckling at the way in which he devoured the new material.

“Deimos isn’t as good at keeping secrets as he thinks, is he?” It was very apparent, the more Cathal read, that Deimos was not of this world. His speech slipped into more of an old-fashioned pattern on several occasions. He also seemed unaware of some of the things of which Mark spoke, but that was understandable, as Cathal hadn’t heard of some of them either. What was 3D, and who was Harry Potter? How could so much have happened in this world in such a short time?

“Neither were you, my love.” Tomas stretched his arms out and took another sip of coffee. “I didn’t realize just how much at the time, but as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty.”

1 Comment

Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, M/M romance, Writers on writing

One Response to Anne Barwell on writing mythic places and magic men, and a sweet excerpt from *Magic’s Muse*

  1. annebarwell

    Thanks for the opportunity to feature on your blog, Lou. The Q&A series of interviews are a great idea. 🙂

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