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Interview with C.L Schneider

A new interview with fantasy author C.L Schneider...

CL Schneider

Tell us about the Crown of Stones books. How did you come up with this concept-what originally triggered the idea, and what challenges did you encounter in the process? What made you begin writing it?

The Crown of Stones is an adult epic fantasy trilogy that follows the trials of Ian Troy, a man born with an addiction to magic. The story is set in the war-torn world of Mirra’kelan where prejudice and oppression are commonplace, magic is reviled, and those who wield it are bred and sold as slaves. Book one, Magic-Price, introduces you to Ian; a flawed hero with a tragic past he’s tried for ten years to leave behind. But, as with most things we run from, the past is catching up. A new sadistic enemy arises just as an old one returns to threaten the land Ian gave up everything to protect. Told from a first person POV, you learn the secrets and the truths as Ian does. You strive with him, and you fail with him, as he struggles to save the realms, and learn the meaning behind his life-altering connection to the Crown of Stones. Book two, Magic-Scars, takes you deeper into the mysteries of Ian’s people, the ancient Shinree; a fallen race of magic users. He uncovers long-buried mysteries and is forced to embrace his power and his dark heritage. Ian’s story concludes in the final installment, Magic-Borne, due out this winter.

The Crown of Stones was mostly inspired by my creation of the main character, Ian Troy. Flawed characters are the ones I enjoy reading about the most. I find them more interesting and realistic. I believe, the more flawed they are, the more chance they have of inciting a wide range of emotions in the reader. I like the gallant white knight and the perfect super heroes as much as the next person, but I’m much more excited about what’s underneath the surface. What trials and tribulations did they have to endure to earn that cape? What past mistakes or secret desires are they hiding behind their mask?

When I created Ian, I already knew his story would revolve around magic. I knew I wanted him flawed and suffering, yet bold and strong. It seemed to me what better way to create and explore a tortured character was to make his greatest strength also his greatest flaw/weakness.

My biggest challenge was simply time. It’s one we all face. I threw myself deep into Magic-Price, and it went through many rewrites before I was happy with it. I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to characters and flow, and tying up loose ends, and Magic-Price went through many rewrites before I was happy with it. It’s a wonder my family didn’t desert me! Before I started Magic-Price, I was working on another epic fantasy (which is currently sitting in a box in my closet). I was reading a lot of Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green. I loved their snarky characters and how they handled first person. And I’d always wanted to do a story revolving around this beautiful chunk of amethyst that had sat on my bookshelf for years. In fact, my working title was The Amethyst Crown, but it didn’t conjure the right mood. When the story expanded to include other stones, so did the crown, and the title. I knew a little bit about crystal healing and thought the idea of the energy/auras of a stone was a good basis for a magic system. Once the story took off, that’s where the bulk of my research was. Every stone and every spell used in the Crown of Stones books can be traced back to the concepts of metaphysical health and crystal healing/magic. I simply tweaked, expanded, or flip-flopped their uses for my own.

And here's an extract from Magic-Price...

Sliding one of the swords into the sheath on my back, I scooted closer. The edge of the rift crumbled some at my weight, but I didn’t waver. Buried in this very spot was the once sprawling empire of my Shinree ancestors, a fallen realm, lost and unseen by the world for over five hundred years. Whatever artifact the quake had uncovered was worth the risk.

I reached down inside the hole. My fingers brushed the rounded lip and an immediate, intense current of energy licked my skin. It ran through me, and I let out a yelp. It wasn’t from pain, though. The jolt was one of pure pleasure. It was raw and acute, and I quickly wrapped my entire hand around the thing and held on.

Nine distinct, magical vibrations were alive inside it. I could feel them all, swirling and overlapping. Each had their own well of energy, but together they formed a compilation of searing, pulsing power that was vast beyond any magic I had ever experienced before. It was massive, concentrated.

Enthralled, I abandoned my other sword and started digging. Loosening the soil, I tugged on the artifact and it didn't take long for the dirt wall to collapse and my prize to come free. As I lifted it out of the hole, I shook it clean.

Fashioned like a King's crown, the circlet was pure perfection.

The others, the soldiers around me, wouldn't see it that way. They couldn't feel its magic, couldn't taste it. They had no idea the pleasure it could offer. Yet, simply looking at the stone crown opened a familiar sinking, wrenching pit of need in my gut.

Sweat beaded then poured off my skin. Tremors erupted deep inside me, rivaling those that split the valley floor. I was suddenly so empty, so hungry.

Who would your three favourite authors be, but more importantly, why?

One of my favorite authors is C. J. Cherryh. I love her writing style. I’m partial to reading first person (and writing it as well), but Cherry’s 3rd person never felt 3rd person to me. I always felt she was able to drop me deep inside the mind of her POV characters in a way other authors couldn’t. Several of her titles I’ve read multiple times, including The Morgaine Saga (which taught me a tremendous amount about writing) and one of her early works, Rusalka. The first in a trilogy, I’ve read Rusalka something like six times. I can’t tell you why. It isn’t her best work. Something about the characters and the story just kept pulling me back.

Emily Bronte. I was totally captivated by Wuthering Heights (another book I’ve read more than once). It’s gothic and tragic, full wild, willful and tortured characters. Emily wrote with such passion and emotion. Her drive to write and publish with so many odds stacked against her; she is an inspiration.

A recent favorite is indie author Tom Reinhart. I’ve read three of his works (Das Vampire, Judgment, and Saint Monolith), and I’ve loved each one better than the last. His writing is so raw, brutal, and honest. He doesn’t pull any punches, doesn’t compromise. I admire that.

Do you listen to music while writing, or prefer silence? If you do listen to music while writing, what genres do you prefer?

I love music. I find it incredibly inspiring, but most of the time I write in silence. It helps me to better immerse myself in the characters and the world they live in. If I do have music on its usually alternative rock, industrial metal, or pop. I have a penchant for loud and angry music, and I love lyrics that bleed emotion. But I usually only have it on for a little while, because I eventually end up singing and paying more attention to the music than the story. What I do instead sometimes, is to listen to music before I write. I focus on the lyrics and picture the story behind them. Almost like a mental writing prompt.

How important do you feel illustrations are in (a) writing for adults, and (b) writing for children and teens?

I think the need, or the importance of illustrations goes down as you get older, but not necessarily the impact. For young children I think they are most important. Pictures help them learn how to visualize the stories on their own as they graduate into higher reading levels. As far as middle grade and YA books go, I love when the author includes illustrations. I’ve often thought the switch to text only happens too soon for some kids, especially those whose interest in reading hasn’t yet been established. While most adults don’t rely on illustrations to understand or enjoy a story, they can be a great enhancement to their reading experience.

If it sparks imagination and keeps people reading, I’m all for it.

Do you feel that there’s any sort of future for books (in any format) and for the art of storytelling?

Oh, most definitely. Storytelling isn’t going anywhere. It’s ingrained in us. It’s a form of art and education, a way to connect generations. Storytelling will always be around in some form or another. Will it still be in the form of physical books in another 100 years? I believe so. But will those babies born in a 100 years from now grow up placing the same importance on physical books that many of us do today? I’m not sure. I think physical books will always have an allure, but sadly, at some point it will likely start fading more into the realm of nostalgia. Especially in a 100 years as it becomes harder and harder to compete with the ease and convenience of technology.

Do you have any talents other than writing, which you’d like to tell us about?

Is shopping a talent? Because I’m really good at that! Seriously, though my older sister got all the talent in the family. The woman sews, cooks, draws, crochets; I swear, you name it and she’s good at it. I do like to cook, and my baking seems to be highly regarded. Not sure though if it’s a real talent, or if it’s a necessity inspired by my love for sweets. Either way, I’ve cut the baking way back the last couple of years. Since publishing The Crown of Stones, I just haven’t had the time to devote to it. And calories are not my friend, and I have zero willpower when it comes to dough or batter of any kind!

Is there one single book in your life that stands out, or provided some kind of turning point, major change, or affected you so deeply in some way that it changed the course of your life?

The book that changed my life is the one that set me on the path to writing fantasy: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Before that I had been on a long streak of reading historical fiction, gothic mysteries, and horror. I’d read many incarnations of the legend of King Arthur and Camelot, but The Mists of Avalon was my first true, epic fantasy. It was a present from my brother (who is a huge fantasy buff), and I read it twice back to back.

Before that I’d written mostly poetry and a handful of unfinished mystery and sci-fi stories. My first complete novel was a post-apocalyptic saga. But once I read The Mists of Avalon, there was no going back. I ploughed through one fantasy novel after another. I fell in love with the covers, the worlds, and the stories. And I wanted nothing more than to make my own.

Finally, what new projects do you have in the pipeline / on the horizon? Which are the most important works-in-progress right now?

On the top of my to-do list is Magic-Borne, the last book in The Crown of Stones trilogy. I’m about to dive into the final edits and hope to have it released in January or February.

I’ve been co-writing a Viking-themed epic fantasy with another indie author. The story is fully plotted and we’ve completed a draft of the opening chapters.

I also have about 20,000 words done on the draft of a new WIP, entitled Nite Fire. This one is more of an urban fantasy centering on Dalia Nite, a shapeshifting half-dragon woman from a parallel world. Many years ago Dalia fled her home under desperate circumstances. She adapted to our world, hiding in plain sight and learning to embrace her human side. But when Dalia becomes involved in a series of brutal murders, the life she’s built here is threatened. The existence of her world and her race is in danger of being exposed. As the plot moves forward, secrets and conspiracies come to light. Dalia’s search for the truth brings her back to her world, a mostly untamed landscape ruled by dragons and populated by shifters and a few other nasty creatures. In these instances, where we explore Dalia’s world, the story will have a more traditional epic feel. I’m planning a trilogy for now with the possibility of more depending on how the story evolves.






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The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price (Book 1) Kindle

Magic-Price Paperback

The Crown of Stones: Magic-Scars (Book 2) Kindle

Magic-Scars Paperback

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New freebie coming soon, from the forthcoming short story compilation. Watch this space! Not all the time though, as that would be boring.