Interview with Fantasy Author L. Blankenship

Today, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with L. Blankenship, who is one of my valued critique partners. A graduate of Viable Paradise, L. writes gritty hard fantasy and science fiction. She also blogs for both Unicorn Bell and Science in my Fiction.

She’s celebrating the release of her book Disciple, Part I, which she is self-publishing after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The saints favor her, else-wise a peasant girl like Kate Carpenter would never be apprenticed to the kingdom’s master healer. But her patron saint also marks her ready for the duty of tending to a mission that must cross the ice-bound mountains. Their little kingdom faces invasion by a vast empire and desperately needs allies; across the snow-filled pass, through the deathly thin air, is a country that’s held off the empire and may be willing to lend an army.

Kate knows about frostbite and the everyday injuries of wilderness travel. She can heal those.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though.

And she isn’t ready for the monsters that harry them night and day, picking off their archers first, wearing the party to exhaustion, pushing Kate beyond the limits her healing abilities.

She must keep them alive, or her blood will be on the snow too.

This is part one of a six-part series. Why does the series start here?

The secret mission across the mountains provided a way to introduce my main characters without dropping the readers directly into a very complicated situation. There’s a simplicity to being out on the road and away from all the trappings of everyday life – which my characters have a lot of. Having met them in Part I, it’s easier for readers to slide into all that information in Part II. There’s also the simple and vital boy-meets-girl aspect of Part I, which is always a good place to start story.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing Disciple, Part I?

The romance elements have been difficult. There’s a reason people have kept writing about romance for thousands of years. It’s a heavily layered thing – everything from careful, left-brain logic to delicate right-brain emotions to bulldozer-subtle hormones. Readers have strong opinions about shoulds and shouldn’ts, and maintaining sympathy with the characters while they make mistakes and argue isn’t easy.

Where did the idea for the Disciple series come from?

The idea for the romance in Disciple came from an online conversation about Titanic. Someone asserted that the romance only worked because Rose was upper-class and Jack was lower-class. They further asserted that if those were reversed, Rose would be a gold-digger and Jack would be an asshole slumming for tail. Neither would be a sympathetic character for the audience.

Naturally, I set about devising a romance where the poor girl was not a gold-digger and the rich guy was not an asshole. That’s what I set out to write, at least. Along the way, things got more complicated than that because I wanted a very down-to-earth story about real and serious problems. So a war got thrown in the mix, and then magic, and it wasn’t just a romance anymore.

What do you see as the advantages to self-publishing this series?

It’s an eclectic combination of advantages. It’s about having control over my product; I’ve been a graphic designer and prepress tech for 15 years and I’ve been involved in small press publishing, so on the technical end of self-publishing, I know what I want to do. I don’t need to give a publisher a cut of the profits to do it for me.

It’s also about keeping all the rights to this intellectual property I’ve sunk so much into – when did Titanic come out? 15 years ago? All writers put a vast amount of energy into their stories, and I’m not saying I’ve done more than anyone else. But the entertainment industry can be quite cutthroat, and there’s a long history of starry-eyed artists being taken advantage of. I don’t want to be one of those.

What advice do you have for other writers wanting to go the same route?

I wrote a series of posts about self-publishing on the Unicorn Bell blog, and I indexed them here. I’m sure to say more about self-publishing, so stay tuned to my blog.

What has been the most rewarding part of this process?

Fellow bloggers have been so kind getting the word out that I’m overwhelmed. When I was putting Disciple together, I was thrilled every time my artists sent me new sketches. This has been an exciting, yet nerve-wracking, six months since I decided to self-publish!

What’s next for Kate and her companions?

I’d like to take this chance to premiere the back cover blurb for Disciple, Part II: (Yay!)

The prince first kissed Kate Carpenter for fear of missing the chance if they didn’t survive the journey home through the monster-prowled mountains.

Now that kiss seems like a fever dream. It’s back to work for her, back to the fellow physicians jealous of her talents and the sneers of an infirmary director who wants her shipped off to some tiny village. Kate means to be on the front lines to save lives. She’s worked too hard to overcome her past to let them deny her the chance to serve her homeland when the enemy’s army reaches their kingdom.

The grand jousting tournament is a chance to prove she can manage combat wounded, and at the royal Solstice banquet Kate means to prove she isn’t an ignorant peasant girl anymore.

But the prince’s kiss still haunts her. Their paths cross at the joust, at the banquet, and the easy familiarity they earned on the journey home is a welcome escape from their duties. It’s a small slip from chatting to kisses.

Kate knows it’s foolish; he’s doomed to a political marriage. As a knight, he will be on the battleground this spring. The kingdom needs every defender, every physician, focused on the war. The vast and powerful empire is coming to slaughter anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical fount.

Kate ought to break both their hearts, for duty’s sake.

Thanks so much, L.!

Be sure to check out L.’s blog and follow her on twitter: @lblankenship_sf.

And remember! Disciple: Part I is available now in print from Amazon and CreateSpace as well as in a variety of ebook formats.

It’s wonderful story, full of action and romance in a vividly imagined world. And the best part is, this is just the start of Kate’s adventures!
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