I am thrilled to have Daniel and his wife Deborah on today to talk about his new book and her lovely art work for the cover.
The Longing for Yount book series was completed when the second book was released last month by ChiZine Publications. Both books The Choir Boats and The Indigo Pheasant are available now.
My great thanks to Daniel, Deborah and ChiZine for allowing me to share. Everyone please check out Daniels books. I for one can’t wait to dive in to the Yount books, previews of Choir Boats and Indigo Pheasant are available online.
Please tell me about yourself –
I have been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since I was a boy back in the 1960s. I majored in the study of folklore & mythology while at university, and continued my research on the subject in Oslo, Norway. Since then I have been a banker, a professor of history, the executive director of a digital university, and a senior executive in national educational non-profits, all the while continuing to visit Faerie whenever I can.
What is your work space and writing routine like? –
I write at night and on weekends, and during every scrap of vacation from my daytime profession. I always carry a notebook with me, and frequently scribble phrases and plot-points into it, even in the midst of otherwise earnest business meetings. I am also a visual artist, so I sketch characters and scenes onto the agendas for those meetings. I listen to very specific kinds of jazz and electronica when I am into the formal drafting phase– if your readers are interested, I would be happy to share my favorite play-lists.
What are you reading now? –
I recently read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (she is a talent whose next books I look forward to reading as well; she reminds me of Lloyd Alexander, which is very high praise indeed!). Also recently read N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms (Book Two of her Inheritance Trilogy), which I recommend, and Except the Queen by Jane Yolen & Midori Snyder, which is good fun, with some real chills interspersed. I re-read Titus Alone, the final volume in Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, and found it much better than I had remembered (it is something of a stepchild compared with the utterly brilliant first two volumes in the series). I am also dipping into Kate Bernheimer’s edited volume of new fairy tales, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, which is a marvelous collection by some of the best writers out there right now.
It isn’t easy for someone to convey what they see in their mind and for another to then create it, do you however feel like the cover art work and interior art work is as close to what you envisioned as possible? –
Yes, most definitely. Deborah is my first and best reader– sternly but sympathetically critical– she “gets” what I am trying to do, better than anyone. And the process works in both directions: sometimes she shows me a picture or we find something together, and that in turn sparks more prose.
How did becoming part of the ChiZine family come about? –
I had been a fan of the magazine Chiaroscuro for some time when I submitted a short story to them, “Optimika,” which they accepted for publication in 2008. In July of that year, out of the blue, Brett and Sandra of Chiaroscuro contacted me to say that they were going to launch a book line to complement the magazine, and wondered if I happened to have a novel-in-progress that they might take a look at. I had been working on The Choir Boats since 2002, and was happy to send them a synopsis and first three chapters…everything worked out from there. Sandra & Brett, and their entire CZP team, have been wonderful to work with.
You have some fantastic reviews out there and while I haven’t read your book yet I did check out the prologue from your web site and adore it. That opening has me hooked. Do these fuel the muse? –
Yes, good reviews certainly stoke the fires. Best of all are those reviews that astutely point out one’s shortcomings, the areas where I did not quite live up to the aim or promise– nothing is better than an engaged reader really coming to grips with the text and helping the author see how to do it better next time. The art of fiction is not a broadcast–it is a conversation, a constant back-and-forth, between the writer and the reader.
Now that the series is complete do you have other works in mind that you plan to focus on? –
I do. I am not entirely done yet with the universe I created for the Yount series, though I think I need to let that marinate a while before I come back to it. Instead, I am returning to the world I started to explore in my very first short story, “Grebe’s Gift,” which Small Beer Press published in their fabulous small zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet in 2006. I have a series of short stories brewing about and in this world, one of them titled “Teatime at Creamlet-Pink,” and another called “The Dragon-Pup of Dobrynia.” There are other stories not yet titled, though I can see the main characters (not all of them human) walking down cobblestoned streets, passing by the grillwork in front of a small shop…
Same genre or will you try something different? –
Same genre. No matter how “realistic” I may attempt to make my fiction, I always end up wandering just off the edge of the map…and somehow there is always a hobgoblin lurking under the sink when I return home.
When can we expect your next release? –
I’ll aim to get those stories out in 2013 and 2014. With my day schedule such as it is, I doubt I can produce the next novel much before 2015 or 2016.
For those not familiar please tell us about your Yount series –
In London in 1812, the merchant family McDoon gets an invitation to visit a world called Yount. The McDoons refuse the call, until one of their members is kidnapped and taken to Yount. As a result, the McDoons throw themselves into an adventure that nearly breaks them as a family. They experience love, loss, betrayal, deception, sacrifice, and many forms of heroism large and small. The women of the family emerge as the leaders, as the ones strong enough to bear the challenges thrust upon them by a monstrous owl and his legions. In the end, they vanquish their foes, overcoming both otherworldly ancient sorcery and the more mundane flaws and venality of other humans in our world.
And the very talented Deborah Mills. Daniels wife is also here to tell us about her wonderful creations featured on the covers
Please tell me about your art. The kinds of work you do, your preferred medium, do you have a preferred time of day to create, do you listen to music while working? –
Wood is my medium of choice. I was very lucky to learn the traditional techniques of European woodcarving at the elbow of a phenomenally talented master woodcarver, Erik Fridstroem, while interning at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo Norway, back in the late 1980s. Erik was as kind as he was skilled. He sent me home with a suitcase full of chisels and gouges, most of them bearing his initials (and now my initials as well). A few of them I believe were given to Erik by his own father, to whom he was apprenticed as a youth.
Woodcarving is one of those skills passed literally hand to hand like a torch. I’ll be thankful to Erik to my dying day, and have been trying to pass the torch forward myself by teaching several carving classes each year.
I’m pretty obsessed with animals, particularly in the form of chimeras and guardian figures, totemic figures that are meant to serve some spiritual purpose or radiate a sort of protective power. Given my druthers, I always incorporate animals into my designs.
Daniel can attest that I am emphatically not a morning person! I do listen to music while I design and carve. There is a rhythm to carving; it is a long process with lots of repetition. When the work is really flowing, I reach a trance-like state during which my mind stills and my eyes and hands take over. Music seems to be an important part of forgetting everything else and getting into that state.
Can you tell me about the carvings that are now featured on the cover? –
Back when Daniel was working on his first draft of The Choir Boats, I started doodling sea monsters, because a few do make appearances during his characters’ voyages. We were daydreaming that I might one day be able to illustrate the book, something I’d never done. My process always involves research, and I wanted to refer to the monsters that you’ll find lurking in the corner of old sea charts. Well, my research got me hooked, I just fell in love with the beasties I was finding, and I decided to do a series of four relief carvings for an upcoming show, based on sea beasts from medieval and Renaissance maps. That became my “Here There Be” series, carved in sapele wood, with ebonized mahogany & 24K goldleaf frames.
It was just one of those lovely, novelistic happenstances that when ChiZine Publications asked to publish The Choir Boats, they really liked my sea beast carvings and wanted to use one of them on The Choir Boats cover. So it went from me being inspired by Daniel’s vivid imagery, to becoming part of the cover art for the same book! I love the symmetry of that!
I couldn’t be more impressed with how Eric Mohr, ChiZine’s designer, used my carvings in both book covers…he created such a beautiful visual metaphor for what’s happening in both books – sundered worlds, a sense of wonder but also things being out of place, a gap between what should be and what is. I absolutely love those covers!
Has your work been featured on other covers? –
Not yet! I’d love to get the chance, though.
Where else can we see your work? –
I post shows and exhibitions I’m in on my website here: http://www.deborahmillswoodcarving.com/exhibits_press.html I also have a mailing list & send an email when I have upcoming events, classes or shows. Just shoot me an email to get onto it.
Deborah Mills beautiful creations can be found on her web site