This week we welcome Erica Dakin. I was born in the Netherlands and lived there until age 25, when I moved to England to live with my then boyfriend, who has been my husband since 2006. I have always been a linguist at heart, and while I only speak two languages fluently (Dutch and English), I know a little about a lot of other languages and will always be passionate about language in general and how to use it.
My sister taught me how to read at age four because I showed interest, and since then reading has been one of my main hobbies. I love curling up with a good book, and always feel a sense of loss when it finishes and I have to resurface from the world that I have been so absorbed in until then.
To pay the bills I work in the Human Resources department of a Government agency, but I dream of being a bestselling author someday. My home life is spent with my husband and four cats (which might possibly put me in the crazy cat lady category, but the simple truth is that I cannot look at two kittens and only choose one).
There have been many writers who have given me many hours of enjoyment through their imagination, and I can think of no greater compliment than other people telling me that I did the same for them. What do you do when you are not writing?
At the moment that doesn’t seem to happen very often, but I enjoy playing strategy-based computer games, going to the cinema, embroidery and tabletop roleplay. I also occasionally play the piano and I am, of course, an avid reader. What inspired you to become a writer?
I don’t think I had a particular epiphany that made me start writing, it’s just something that happened. I learned to read when I was four and in my childhood I did very little else but read, so to then start writing was simply a natural extension of that. As to when I began to write, I have recently been trying to figure that out, and the earliest thing I can remember writing was around twenty years ago. I’m not saying I didn’t write anything before then, but if I did I cannot remember what it was. What was your inspiration for The Ritual?
In its very first incarnation it started as a story to accompany a tabletop roleplaying campaign I had just started, but the campaign never really got off the ground for various reasons, and as such the story was shelved as well. I dug it out again when a friend drew my attention to a competition to get a novel published, and the novel I was working on at the time was unpublishable due to copyright issues. Tell us more about your book.
It tells the story of identical twin sisters, half human and half elf, trying to make their way in a world where their half-breed race is considered little more than vermin. Most half-elves are slaves, and those that aren’t live on the edge of society. They meet two half-elf men, also identical twins, and are drawn into their dangerous scheme until they’re in so deep that there is no way of backing out again. Added to that there is an almost irresistible mutual attraction coupled with very solid reasons for not being able to trust each other, even though the four of them have no choice but to rely on each other. The book is an equal blend of Fantasy, Romance and Adventure with some saucy bits thrown in for added spice. What research did you do for this book?
If I’m honest, very little. The beauty of a Fantasy setting is that it gives you a lot of freedom to make things up on the spot without needing too much hard science to back it up. I have on the whole relied on my vast reading experience, my own innate desire to eliminate any possible plot holes and on my editor and beta readers for pointing out anything that didn’t sound plausible. Are any elements of your book based on real life experiences/people?
Not consciously, although a friend has said that he recognised a lot of my own characteristics in Chiarin, the main character in The Ritual. Whether this is true I’m not sure, especially since he is the only one to have said so, but I guess it’s unavoidable to put a little bit of yourself in your main character. What are you currently working on?
The Ritual is the first book in a trilogy. Each book will stand as a story on its own, but the books are interlinked. The second part of this trilogy, The Conspiracy, is currently in the beta-reading stage. Once I have the feedback from my beta readers I will need to make some final adjustments, but I hope to have it ready for publishing in April or at the very last May 2013. The feedback has so far been very positive, so the adjustments probably won’t need to be extensive. In the meantime I have just started the first draft of the third book, tentatively titled The Coup. This book is little more than a very basic plot in my head at this stage, so I doubt I will have it ready before 2014, but it should keep me busy for a while to come! Apart from that I am very close to finalising the files to make The Ritual available as a print-on-demand book, which will hopefully expand my potential reader pool again. What is your writing process?
I mostly write on my computer, and depending on how strong the urge is, it could be something I do from the moment I come home from the day job until I go to bed, with nothing but a break for dinner. I have also been known to write on a netbook or even in a paper notebook while on holiday. The beauty of pen and paper is that it will never run out of battery power, and it means that when it comes to typing it up later, you can make amendments and adjustments as you type. Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process?
Nothing I couldn’t live without. I will always have music playing in the background while at my computer, but if I’m out on holiday with my pen and paper I don’t miss it. Similarly I will gladly accept a cup of tea if my husband offers to make one, but it isn’t essential to the writing process. What prompted you to self publish The Ritual?
Impatience more than anything else. The book was ready, as far as I was concerned, and although I approached an agent to try and go through the traditional publishing route, it would have taken months to approach all the ones that looked to cover the right kind of genre, and I was fully expecting to get nothing but rejections, since everyone agrees that it is fiendishly difficult to get published if you’re a beginning writer. By self-publishing I hope that in or three years time I can approach an agent with sales figures, decent reviews and other proof that my book has merit and deserves attention. Can you tell us about the challenges in writing and publishing your first novel?
In all honesty, I haven’t faced that many challenges. Writing the book happened all by itself, and although it needed severe editing, I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is also a very good editor to take care of that side of it. Apart from that the self-publishing process is pretty easy, since the various sites I’ve used take you through the process step by step. I’ve made a few beginner’s errors, such as forgetting to list myself as the author of the book (I foolishly assumed that since I was logged on as me, it would do that automatically), but apart from that the process has been pleasantly smooth. Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?
I have not yet experienced it, other than in the sense that I have written about characters and reached a point where there was nothing left to tell. Once I got to that stage I knew that it was time to move on to something else, so I did. At the very most I can get stuck on individual sentences, where I need half an hour to find the right words to describe something, but I wouldn’t consider that writers block. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Get yourself a good editor. No matter how many times you read through something yourself, there will always be something that you missed, be it spelling mistakes, gaping plot holes or simply bad writing. It is also very important that your editor isn’t afraid to tell it like it is – if something needs major work then they need to be able to tell you so, and you need to be able to accept that criticism. I had what I considered to be a publishable book until my editor told me that it needed so much work that I would be better off doing a complete side-by-side rewrite, and in hindsight it was the best advice she ever gave me. Sure, it was a bit of a shock when she first said it, but the book has turned out much better in the end. How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write in it?
Simply said, the books I have read throughout my life. I have always loved Fantasy as a genre, and had dreams of writing the next big epic Fantasy novel. The problem was that my second great love is all things Romance, and whatever I wrote always ended up having a very heavy romantic side to it. Eventually I accepted that I was clearly incapable of writing anything without it being a Romance, and embraced it instead. How did you get interested in Fantasy and Romance?
For the Fantasy side it must have been the books I read as a child. My favourite author until about age 15 was a Dutch writer called Paul Biegel, whose books were Fantasy for children. I then progressed onto The Lord of the Rings, and from there the path was pretty much set. As for the Romance side, my mother and aunts always had a number of Mills & Boons scattered around, and I have always found them to be wonderful if you’re after some light reading that doesn’t require much thought. What books have inspired you?
Oh, so many… The Lord of the Rings, the Assassin trilogy by Robin Hobb, the Sunrunner books by Melanie Rawn, to name but a few. Apart from that there are writers whose work I greatly admire for various reasons, and their work will inevitably have left a mark on my own writing. Tanith Lee, Jack Vance for his rich vocabulary, Terry Pratchett for his sense of humour, Nora Roberts, George RR Martin; the list goes on. What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
I read too many books at the time to have just one favourite, but if I absolutely had to pick one I suppose it’ll have to be The Lord of the Rings, even if these days I admire it more for its story than for the writing. What are you currently reading?
I usually have at least two books on the go, one for in bed and one for reading on the bus as I go to work. The book on the bus is Terry Pratchett’s Snuff and the book in bed is Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
The Assassin trilogy by Robin Hobb. Just For Fun!
If The Ritual was made into a film, which actors do you envision in the lead role?
I believe The Ritual would actually make a good film, but I’m not fussed about actors provided they’re good. Complete unknowns don’t bring in the baggage of previous films, so they might even work better – the Lord of the Rings films have proven that you don’t need a cast of A-list actors to make a brilliant film. That said, in looks Zashter is pretty much based on Michael Praed from the 1985 TV series Robin of Sherwood. If your book had a soundtrack, which artists would feature on it?
My musical taste veers into the obscure, so I doubt many people will have heard of them, but I would say Värttinä, VNV Nation, Rotersand, Assemblage 23 and Hedningarna. Paper, Audio or eBook?
Paper, although I love my e-reader and couldn’t do without it anymore. Tea or coffee?
Depends on the time of day. First thing in the morning I need my cup of tea though, or I’ll bite people’s heads off. Slippers or barefoot?
Slippers in winter, barefoot in summer. Shower or bath?
Shower, without a doubt. Marmite: love it or hate it?
Hate it. E-mail or postcard?
Probably e-mail, though I still try to send postcards when on holiday.
To learn more about Erica and her work visit her Goodreads author’s page (here), her Amazon author’s page (here) or her blog(here). Chiarin is a stubborn, hot-blooded young half-elf whose only goal is to keep herself and her twin sister alive in a land that considers her disposable because of her race. Yet when she meets fellow thief Zashter, she finds herself drawn into his dangerous undertaking, and into an adventure she could not have anticipated.
Attracted to him despite his brooding nature, and determined to learn from him despite knowing she cannot trust him, she soon realises that there is no going back, and she must help Zashter fulfil the wish of his sinister employer, even if dragons, elves and magic stand in their way.
As their fiery love-affair intensifies, Chiarin faces a choice: run and leave Zashter to his own devices, or stay and sacrifice everything? After all, her sister’s life hinges on this as well…
Ritual is available to by for your ereader on Amazon (click here) and and Smashwords.It is also available on such sites as Kobobooks, Barnes & Noble and the Apple store. Erica hopes to have a printed version available through Amazon within the next couple of weeks.