Please welcome Ronlyn Domingue to The Qwillery. Ronlyn is the author of The Mercy of Thin Air, The Mapmaker's War and the upcoming The Chronicle of Secret Riven.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Ronlyn: Thanks for the invitation!
When I was in third grade, I had a marvelous teacher who noticed I was a precocious reader and that I finished my classwork quickly. Mrs. Allen allowed me a few hours each week to focus on activities that interested me, and I discovered one of the things I liked to do was write my own stories. And here we are, decades later, two books published already and two more on the way.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Ronlyn: A plotter, sort of. I spend years in what I call a research and incubation phase before I actually start writing. During that time, I get pieces of the story—dialogue bits, image flashes, character impressions. At some point, I begin to see how these pieces can be organized into an arc from beginning to end. That’s when I create a storyboard or plot map, which I type up and tack on my corkboards.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Ronlyn: The blocks. Sometimes, the experience is like being in a pitch-dark room as I run my hands along the walls for a crack, and other times, it’s like a force weighing me down in one place. I cannot write my way out of these moments, which can last anywhere from days to months. Because I’m an intuitive writer—which is a receptive rather than an active mode—I can’t force a story to reveal itself. This comes in time. The blocks are periods when the story is sorting itself out in secret or when I’m simply not prepared to learn what it has to reveal. Even though I know what’s going on—this has happened with every book I’ve written—it’s still frustrating.
TQ: Describe The Chronicle of Secret Riven (Keeper of Tales Trilogy 2) in 140 characters or less.
Ronlyn: A strange girl struggles to accept her mysterious gifts and confront her destiny in THE MAPMAKER’S WAR’s epic sequel.
TQ: Tell us something about The Chronicle of Secret Riven that is not in the book description.
Ronlyn: Tidbit 1: You don’t have to read The Mapmaker’s War first to follow what’s happening. You can start with the second book.
Tidbit 2: The seed of this story came from a fairy tale I wrote in college about a girl who lived in a kingdom where women were forbidden to read.
Tidbit 3: I wrote this book by hand. With pencils.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite lines from The Chronicle of Secret Riven.
Ronlyn: “To see is a trick of the mind, but to believe is a trick of the heart.”
TQ: What would you say are the themes of The Chronicle of Secret Riven?
Ronlyn: The risk of authenticity—how does a person manage to be who she is when most people, even within her own family, don’t accept or understand her? Power over is another one—the power parents have over their children, that authority has over subordinates—both in overt and covert ways. Also, gender expectations—how the boundaries are rarely spoken about but are still clear and the consequences, and rewards, when they’re crossed.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Keeper of the Tales Trilogy so far?
Ronlyn: At first, I was immersed in fairy tales, myths, and folklore—the motifs and themes that every human being connects to. I also read a lot about myths and tales, from scholars such as Joseph Campbell and Maria Tatar. Then I ended up in Jungian territory learning more about archetypes. While working on The Mapmaker’s War, I researched cartography to understand what Aoife, the narrator, might have experienced, and Neolithic communities, which mirror the Guardian settlements in that book. As for The Chronicle of Secret Riven, I’ve read about topics as diverse as alchemy, rare book collecting, and bees.
TQ: In the first two novels (The Mapmaker's War and The Chronicle of Secret Riven) who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Ronlyn: Oh wow. No one’s asked me this before. Although Leit, Aoife’s spouse in The Mapmaker’s War, has a traumatic past, he was the easiest because he was the most forthcoming about his own part of the story. He didn’t hide or obscure anything, a blessing and a curse. In The Chronicle of Secret Riven, Nikolas, the prince and Secret’s best friend, was easiest. He has a good heart and dry sense of humor, and he never gave me a lick of trouble. The hardest…honestly, Aoife and Secret. They are both highly intelligent, gifted people, and they are more complex than any other characters (or actual people) I’ve ever encountered.
TQ: What's next?
Ronlyn: The trilogy’s third book is in the works right now. The full draft is complete, but it needs to be significantly revised. My beasties have been full of surprises.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Ronlyn: Many thanks for the opportunity to share my books with your readers!
The Chronicle of Secret Riven
Keeper of Tales Trilogy 2
Atria Books, May 20, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.
One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. Yet gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.
When Secret is twelve, her mother receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet suffers from nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, one her mother knows as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find.
Years later, Secret becomes a translator’s apprentice for Fewmany, an influential magnate, who has taken an interest in her for reasons she cannot discern. Before Secret learns why, Old Woman confronts Secret with the truth of her destiny—a choice she must make that is tied to an ancient past.
Overflowing with spellbinding storytelling, vivid characters, and set in a fascinating world, The Chronicle of Secret Riven explores the tension between love and hate, trust and betrayal, fate and free will.
The Mapmaker's War
Keeper of the Tales Trilogy 1
Atria Books, March 5, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 240 pages
Published originally in Hardcover, March 5, 2013
In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom’s mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind, nor can she bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her.
Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mapmaker’s War and The Mercy of Thin Air, which was published in ten languages. She lives in Louisiana with her partner, Todd Bourque. Connect with her on RonlynDomingue.com, Facebook, and Twitter.