Friday, 25 September 2015

C.L. Schneider - Spoiler Interview

Welcome to the new Spoilers series.
What does it involve?  How is this different to normal interviews?
Well, quite simply, most interviews hinge on the writer; and the author is often constrained by not wanting to give away any of those key secrets in their book.

But here we intend to break those little rules, and dig into everything we want to know about the story.

My first victim- I mean, lovely author-type person - is the one and only C.L. Schneider: writer of the Crown of Stones series.
So if you don't want Magic Price (Crown of Stones #1) ruined - you have been warned.
Why don't you go pick up the book:

Or check out my (relatively) spoiler-free review: clickee here

C.L. Schneider
C. L. Schneider grew up in a small Kansas town on the Missouri River, in a house of avid readers and overflowing bookshelves. Her first full-length novel was penned at sixteen on a type-writer in her parent’s living room. Her debut novel, The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price, begins an epic journey that follows the trials of Ian Troy, a man born with an addiction to magic. Currently residing in New York’s Hudson Valley Region with her husband and two sons, most days C. L. can be found at her laptop, torturing characters, drinking too much coffee, and daydreaming about the zombie apocalypse.

Magic-Scars, the second book in The Crown of Stones trilogy was released earlier this year. She is working on the third and final instalment in the trilogy.


Are you still here.  Ok, last warning; unless you want to ruin finding out the connection between Troy and the enemy; and the outcome of the final battle, amongst other things - GO AWAY.

... OK, so I'm guessing that I now only have C.L. Schneider's fans with me, and perhaps a few stubborn people.  You have been warned.

1. One of the things I loved about the book was that our hero was called Ian. How did you come
up with the name?
I have a bit of a pet peeve about names in fantasy books. If I pick up a book, and I can’t pronounce any of the names on the back cover, I usually put it back down. This goes for characters and places. A few are fine. Really, the genre almost demands it. And I love unique names. But, personally, I believe unique and completely unpronounceable are two different things. If I’m going to connect to a character, I don’t want to have to struggle, or worse, skip over his name every single time it appears. If I have to do this with every character or every town they wander into it, the whole story loses something for me.

In creating my own characters, I usually spend a decent amount of time choosing a name. Would a hard or soft sound fit better with their personality? What images does it conjure? Does it work with the world I’ve created? Sometimes I want the first and last name to flow, sometimes I don’t. If it’s a character I’m adding into a WIP, I sometimes experiment with different names, reading some lines aloud to see what flows better. I also look at the meanings behind a name. More than once I’ve selected a name for the draft then changed it because it no longer fits the character they’ve become during revisions.

I was flipping through a baby name book when I came across the name Troy. The moment I saw it, I knew it was his. In Irish, Troy means: descendant of a foot soldier. Not only does it bring to mind epic battles and ancient heroes, Ian is descended from a line of Shinree soldiers that dates back to the empire. So I thought Troy was very appropriate for his character. Not being born into privilege, I wanted his first name to be common, yet on the unique side. I wanted it short. With all the desperate moments I knew would be happening, I didn’t want a mouthful when the other characters are calling out to him. It had to be nonsense and end strong, yet I didn’t want him to sound like a thug. His name needed to convey intelligence. Ian was the perfect fit.

2. What was the inspiration behind the Shinree’s original fall from power?
I wanted the collapse of the Shinree Empire to be as catastrophic for the empire itself as it was for the people who inhabited it. In order for the other races to finally gain the upper hand, the Shinree had to lose everything. There could be nothing left for them to come back to. No way for them to recoup their dominance. Also, in order for Ian to have nothing but myth and legend to go on to unravel the mystery of the crown, I needed the truth to be inaccessible; making Ian dig for it. My inspiration for the quake and the complete devastation came from the destruction of Pompeii and Atlantis.

3. We see both sides of drugging the Shinree, what is your personal viewpoint?
When the empire fell, the Shinree were drugged and the slave laws created. They were subdued out of fear and anger. The other races had been terrorized by the Shinree’s magic for years, especially under Emperor Tam’s reign. This was their chance for all of Mirra’kelan to break free of that tyranny and basically beat the unbeatable. But as you learn throughout the books, there are different levels of suppression based on how much of the drug is ingested. Did the Shinree need to be given the full amount, kept in a constant stupor and forced into labor camps? Did they need to be bred based on the needs of the market? Those things weren’t about suppressing their magic to make the other races feel safe. They were about control, humiliation, and revenge.

So, while drugging them was probably the best option for erasing the immediate threat (it was certainly better than genocide, which after the Shinree were drugged could have easily been carried out), as time went on I think less degrading methods could have been tried, perhaps in the form of a small, mandatory dose of the drug and a slow reintegration into society. In his youth, Jem Reth attempted to bring about real change. He tried to call attention to the treatment of the slaves and have the laws amended. Who knows what might have happened if his ideas had been met with anything but disdain.

Still, the urge to cast is powerful for the Shinree. It’s quite possible any leniency shown to them would have backfired horribly.

4. There is a theme throughout where characters do not allow their blood and their relations to dictate their fate. As a writer, was that a conscious choice?
I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, and if our fate is shaped by anything, it’s by the choices and the decisions that we make. While I’m not sure it was a conscious choice, I do think that belief carried over into the writing of the Crown of Stones. The Shinree worship Fate as a god. Though their religion is somewhat defunct due to their slavery, the early Shinree believed Fate ruled their lives. It’s a theme that’s explored even deeper the farther you go into the trilogy. Yet my characters constantly go their own way, straining their limitations and striving to go beyond the roles they were born to. Of course the choices they make don’t always lead them down nice paths. In fact, most have unpleasant consequences. But they keep making them. They keep pushing those boundaries. The only one that doesn’t really is Neela. From ignoring her own affection for Jarryd when she was young, to surrendering Ian to his enemies and marrying Draken; the majority of Neela’s actions in Magic-Price fit into the parameters of her position. Or at least the parameters she believes (or was taught) her position has set for her. When her attempt to retake Kabri failed she went to a more political solution, almost like she was following the rules in a book. Perhaps that’s why her character is one that tends to aggravate readers, as well as Ian. She sits perfectly still while everyone else rocks the boat.

5. And speaking of which, was it fun to unveil the whole “Luke, I am your father” twist?
Yes, very much so! I loved revealing Jem’s identity. In a split second, Ian finds out his father is not only alive, but is also the sadistic magic user that woke his magic and his been torturing him—oh, and by the way, ‘I killed your mother, and I’m responsible for the deaths of King Raynan, King Sarin, and a whole host of other people, and you have this new name with all these dark connotations and expectations, so come be my heir’. Ian learns all this in a matter of minutes and it takes him through a dark roller coaster of emotions. That moment really changes everything for him. It’s the beginning of this disturbing, pseudo-relationship between Ian and Jem. From that point on, you begin to see how truly warped Jem is. You get a glimpse into his past and his jealous, love-hate, relationship with V’loria and Raynan. Really, with Ian as well, if you think about it. There is also this unrealized potential for something more. If circumstances had been different, could Jem have become a good father and a great leader?

Then, when Neela tells Ian the true history of his beginnings he learns Jem was once a real advocate for Shinree freedom. The ‘what might have been’ knife shoves in a little further. And that’s what the twist with Ian’s father is really all about. How much can Ian take? And will the weight of all that pain make him, or break him?

There is a quote that I love by Khalil Gibran. “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” I feel like that describes Ian and his journey perfectly. Learning Jem Reth is his father scars Ian in a way the magic never could.

6. Which would you say is Ian Troy’s greatest weakness—magic or women?
Oh, tough question. Can I cheat and say magical women? Well, if not, then I’d have to say magic tips the scales on this one. Both are inborn, physical urges that bring great pleasure, and pain I suppose, but as reckless as women tend to make Ian, his need for magic is far more crippling. The hold it has over him, to make him give in and cast, even knowing he might drain the person (or people) next to him; that’s powerful. His attraction to Neela was nearly that bad. After all, he rode alone into the lion’s den to save her from Draken at the end of book 1 regardless of the personal risk or the potential consequences to the realms if he should fail. But his attraction to Neela was magical in nature, fed by Jem’s dream spell. Even Sienn, when she was Imma, was luring Ian toward her with magic. You might even tie his obsession with Aylagar to his need for magic. While he was a part of her army, Aylagar forced Ian to curtail his casting. We already know he turned to other vices as a substitute for magic. Sex with Aylagar was likely an alternative release to temporarily curb his addiction. Jillyan could be seen in the same way. When he first slept with her in Magic-Scars, she was his relief after two years of being drugged and cut off from casting. With Ian, it always comes back to magic.

7. What has been your favourite revelation to write in Magic-Price?
In Magic-Price, it was definitely the revelation of Ian’s father. I think I said enough about that already, but once that revelation is made, I have an excuse to heap more emotional torture on Ian. Though, I have to say, Neela being Ian’s ‘dream woman’, led to some scenes that were great fun to write. In Magic-Scars, it was the eldring. By the end of the first book, I don’t believe most people had any idea how significant a role the eldring would play in the remainder of the trilogy. I loved revealing them in layers so the reader discovers the truth of them as Ian does.

Thank you so much to C.L. Schneider for a little more insight into the Crown of Stones trilogy.
Don't forget to stop by my recent review of the second book - Magic Scars

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