Please welcome Jacey Bedford to The Qwillery. Winterwood, the first novel in the Rowankind series, was published on February 2nd by DAW.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?
Jacey: The most challenging thing is nor the actual writing, but making time for it. I used to be a full-time folk singer with the trio Artisan, an a cappella vocal trio touring internationally, which is how I come to have contacts in the USA even though I'm British and live in Britain. I still sing with Artisan for the occasional reunion tour, but currently, in my other day job, I'm a music booking agent for folk musicians touring in the UK. I work from home, so I have to balance both sides of my life.
Re plotting or pantsing: I'm a hybrid. If I'm starting from scratch on a new concept (i.e. not a sequel) I tend to get an idea - it may be a scene or a character or a person in a particular situation - and I write it to see what happens, and then I continue to see what happens next. I usually have an idea of how I want the whole thing to end up, but I don't always commit that to writing straight away. Sometimes I can get to 10, 20 or even 30,000 words before I stand back, take a long look and draft out a proper plan. Even then I may not stick to it. It may evolve. Sometimes the characters surprise me by doing something I didn't expect them to do. Usually that's because of something I've already built into them and my subconscious is saying: Hey, if that just happened then this is what she's going to do next. If it's a sequel or the middle book in a trilogy I usually have a beginning and end point, but my plan may also have a large chunk in the middle which on the outline just says 'stuff happens'.
That's how Winterwood started. The deathbed scene between Ross and her estranged mother just came into my mind and I had to write it. At that time I thought Ross was a pirate, but she turned out to be a privateer. I didn't know about Will's ghost until he popped up later and it seemed as though Ross wasn't fazed by him. Will's ghost is jealous and occasionally mean, unlike Will was in life, and they snark at each other sometimes, but I figure he's clinging to what he can and it's changed him. Still, Ross is glad he hasn't left her altogether. Her need enables him.
TQ: Describe Winterwood in 140 characters or less.
Jacey: 1800. Sea, magic, pirates, love. Cross dressing Ross tackles a difficult task with the ghost of her late husband & a sexy wolf shapechanger.
TQ: Tell us something about Winterwood that is not found in the book description.
Jacey: Ross is very fond of her crew aboard the Heart of Oak, Particularly Hookey Garrity, a one-handed, barely-reformed pirate who has given her his complete loyalty. Also Daniel Rafiq, a very cultured African ex-slave, now the ship's quartermaster. They supported her in the dark days after Will's death and they are like big brothers.
TQ: What inspired you to write Winterwood? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy/Alternate History?
Jacey: I've always been fascinated by history; social and local rather than political, though the political is often needed to put the rest into context. Being able to thread a story into real history is a fascinating exercise, but really it's the story and characters that count. The history informs all that, however, and sometimes gives you unexpected gifts when your research delivers something you can use in the story.
I particularly wanted to set a story in 1800. Everything is converging. The Americans have taken their independence, the French are living with the aftermath of the revolution, Napoleon is rampaging through Europe, and at the same time the industrial revolution is developing quickly. Also King George III is completely mad. There's a possibility he had porphyria (though opinion is still divided), but what if he was unhinged because he had magic?
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Winterwood?
Jacey: I did an enormous amount of reading on the Georgians and the Regency period, from lightweight popular histories to specific topics like sex in Georgian England and the prostitutes of Covent Garden. I'm a landlubber, so I had to do an enormous amount of work on sailing ships from sail plans to the best timber for a hull (and kudos to the contributors to Wikipedia on these particular topics.) I had to constantly check language, too, trying to avoid anachronisms and using some genuine vocabulary and slang of the time without getting too mired in archaic words and trying to emulate the rhythms of Georgian speech. If you want a laugh go to Project Gutenberg and download Captain Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811. It's a hoot! There are terms there for things you didn't know you needed a term for.
Historical maps also played a big part. I found a great online resource for Plymouth, which is where my story begins. That resource sadly disappeared from the web, but it was a great starting point. Also there's a fabulous map of London by Horwood which is only a few years adrift from my time period and is street-by-street accurate. Street names change over time, bridges get built (and it's important to know when) and areas of the city are developed extremely quickly, so getting something of the right period is vital.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Jacey: Ross came to me pretty much fully formed: a young widow, estranged from her mother and brother, who has taken on the persona of her dead husband and now owns and captains the Heart of Oak, a privateer tops'l schooner preying on French shipping. She's washing away her grief in saltwater and blood, cleaving to her crew as her family. It's been three years since Will died, but his ghost is still with her, whether she wants him or not (and largely she does). Neither of them have moved on. She's also an unregistered witch at a time when that's a hanging offence (if the Mysterium catches her). Her particular skills are with wind and water, and she's also a summoner, though at the beginning of the book she doesn't understand the significance of that.
Corwen was the most difficult. He's a bit of an enigma and I'm still discovering more about him as I'm writing the second book, Silverwolf. I had to make him sexy and capable, yet mysterious and a little bit dangerous, without giving away too much. We meet him early on (though may not recognise him) and then he reappears about a third of the way through. Needless to say, Will's ghost isn't too thrilled about this and there's a stand-off scene between them which I loved writing, but I can't tell you any more without spoilers.
TQ: Which question about Winterwood do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Jacey: Why is the series called The Rowankind? And where do the Fae, the Green Man and the Lady of the Forests fit in?
The Fae are a very powerful old race who live in Iaru (sometimes known as Orbisalius - the Other World), but they don't really want to interact with the world of humans. Humans are mostly beneath their notice, except when they do something the Fae disapprove of. The Fae's servants, the rowankind, have been enslaved by humans and the Fae reckon it's about time to free them. (That's where Ross comes in.) The Lady of the Forests and the Green Man are elemental spirits of this world, living deep in the green spaces of England, hidden by magic. They know the Fae and sometimes interact, but largely keep separate, taking care of earthly, natural magics.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Winterwood.
Jacey: I like the opening when Ross returns to the family home and her estranged (dying) mother: The stuffy bedroom stank of sickness with an underlying taint of old lady, stale urine and unwashed clothes, poorly disguised with attar of roses. I'd never thought to return to Plymouth, to the house I'd once called home; a house with memories so bitter that I'd tried to scour them from my mind with salt water and blood.
Later, when Ross has found a half-brother she didn't know she had, she's trying to educate him in the ways of the world: "Is it true what they say about a sailor having a girl in every port?" David sounded hopeful. "If it is it's because the girls have a sailor on every ship."
And when Ross tries to get out of doing the Fae's bidding: Soon after true dawn a shout from David woke me and brought me running. He was kneeling in the sand. In front of him, nestling in a small pile of flotsam left by the retreating tide, was the winterwood box. David looked up at me. "You can't say it's not your quest now. It's followed you." "Leave it where it is. That's how the Navy's witch found us before." "I don't care. It's important. Remember what the Lady of the Forest said. It can right a great wrong. It's the key to a new future. If you don't take it, I will." His eyes narrowed and his mouth set in a thin line. Damme, he would, too. I bent over and snatched the box, feeling the familiar tingle of magic as I touched it. "Happy now?" I asked him.
TQ: You are also the author of the Psi-Tech SF/Space Opera series: Empire of Dust and Crossways. Do the Psi-Tech novels and Winterwood share anything thematically?
Jacey: Other than the fact that they both have a strong female central character and a relationship at their heart, they probably don't share too much. Empire is about identity and trust, and doing the right thing no matter the cost. Winterwood is about the meaning of family, loyalty, responsibility, and--yeah, OK--doing the right thing no matter the cost. (Though in Winterwood, identifying the right thing is one of the problems.) Maybe there is an overall theme that runs through both, though the 'right thing' is very different in each case.
TQ: What's next?
Jacey: I'm currently writing the sequel to Winterwood, Silverwolf, which explores the social and political ramifications of what Ross does at the end of Winterwood. Wild magic has been released. Things have happened which could change the course of the industrial revolution and Corwen's respectable family is caught up in the backlash. We're back in Georgian England, in 1801, just a few months after Winterwood concludes. There will be a third Rowankind book to follow Silverwolf, but not until after the third Psi-Tech book, Nimbus, which completes the space opera trilogy.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Jacey: You're welcome. Thanks for inviting me.
DAW, February 2, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
It’s 1800. Mad King George is on the British throne, and Bonaparte is hammering at the door. Magic is strictly controlled by the Mysterium, but despite severe penalties, not all magic users have registered.
Ross Tremayne, widowed, cross-dressing privateer captain and unregistered witch, likes her life on the high seas, accompanied by a boatload of swashbuckling pirates and the possessive ghost of her late husband, Will. When she pays a bitter deathbed visit to her long-estranged mother she inherits a half brother she didn’t know about and a task she doesn’t want: open the magical winterwood box and right an ancient wrong—if she can.
Enter Corwen. He’s handsome, sexy, clever, and capable, and Ross doesn’t really like him; neither does Will’s ghost. Can he be trusted? Whose side is he on?
Unable to chart a course to her future until she’s unraveled the mysteries of the past, she has to evade a ruthless government agent who fights magic with darker magic, torture, and murder; and brave the hitherto hidden Fae. Only then can she hope to open the magical winterwood box and right her ancestor’s wrongdoing. Unfortunately, success may prove fatal to both Ross and her new brother, and desastrous for the country. By righting a wrong, is Ross going to unleash a terrible evil? Is her enemy the real hero and Ross the villain?
Jacey Bedford is an English writer with short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic. She is the co-organizer of the UK Milford Writers’ Conference, a peer-to-peer workshopping week for published SF writers. Visit her online at www.jaceybedford.co.uk.