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As a part of Adopt an Indie month, I interviewed Karin Rita Gastreich, author of Eolyn which I reviewed earlier. Read the review here.

Me: What has been the hardest part of your journey in writing and publishing Eolyn?

Karin: The biggest challenge of writing Eolyn was the battle sequence. When I started the novel, I had very little knowledge of medieval warfare (or any warfare, for that matter), and so I was understandably concerned about taking on the climactic battle scenes that would be so important to the story. I did a lot of research on ancient and medieval warfare, to get an idea of the logic and flow of battles, the appropriate use of weapons of the period, and so forth. This helped, but what really made the difference was connecting with other fantasy authors who had expertise in this area. Without their advice and support, I would not have achieved the level of authenticity that I did.

Now I can say the part of the novel that most intimidated me turned out to be one of the most exciting and fulfilling to write. And it gave me an extra special glow of satisfaction the day Publishers Weekly posted their review of Eolyn and described my battle scenes as “vigorously written”.

The biggest challenge of publishing Eolyn has been balancing my time between the day job, writing and all the tasks that come with publishing. Just a couple years ago, writing was my hobby. Now, it’s a part time job. The time I used to dedicate exclusively to writing must now be divided between writing, marketing, blogging, facebooking, attending events, and other activities related to getting the word out about my first novel.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. This has been an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But the day job takes no less time than it did before I published; and I still have other important things going on in my life, like, say, family. So I’ve had to plan very carefully how to use all of my time, and especially how to use my “writing” time.

Me: What benefits have you found in being an indie author?

Karin: Well, I love my small press. I have been very happy with Hadley Rille Books because it’s not just a quality publishing house; it’s a family. My editor, Eric T. Reynolds, is an all around great guy; very professional, and dedicated to publishing excellent fiction and achieving the best for his authors. In addition, I have met many talented authors through HRB; people whose writing has inspired me, and who have been very supportive of my own work.

Some exciting projects have resulted from the connections I’ve made through HRB. For example, just this past September I started a new blog, Heroines of Fantasy, with fellow HRB authors Kim Vandervort and Terri-Lynne DeFino. I think I can say with some confidence this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t signed on with this particular small press.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed about small press – as a first-time author, especially – is the opportunity to participate in all aspects of bringing the novel into print, including helping to choose the cover art and the cover design. I knew next to nothing about publishing when I signed on with Hadley Rille, so this has been a great learning experience, and I’ve had a real sense of ownership every step of the way.

Me: Which authors have influenced your writing most?

Karin: Oh, goodness. Well that’s a long list, and not all of them are from fantasy. To name a few: J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White, George R.R. Martin. The Brothers Grimm, while not ‘authors’ in the same sense as Tolkien or White, provided a lot of fertile ground for my imagination with their German folktales. There are many historical fiction authors I admire, such as Frances Kazan, Philippa Gregory and Karen Essex; and a long list of Latin American authors who have inspired me, including Gioconda Belli, Mario Benedetti and Jorge Luis Borges. I’ve also been inspired by the work of historians such as Alison Weir, David Starky and Caroline P. Murphy. That’s just with respect to my life as a novelist; if we start talking about my life as an ecologist, the list gets even longer…

Me: Did you always want to be an author?

Karin: Well, doesn’t everyone?

But, seriously: Yes and no. I’ve been telling stories ever since I can remember. In junior high and high school, I dreamed of being a fiction writer. But I dreamed about being a lot of things, like an astronaut, a ballet dancer, a biochemist, a nun. . . So to say I was indecisive regarding my professional future is an understatement.

For different reasons, I set aside all my other ideas in favor of pursuing the dream of being a biologist, and eventually became a field ecologist. During my years as a full time scientist, I continued writing fiction on and off as a hobby. About five years ago, I sat down and started putting my ideas for Eolyn on paper for the first time.

Still, even after a year of working on the novel, I wasn’t really thinking about publishing Eolyn. Well, it’s not that I didn’t think about publishing; but mostly I wrote because I enjoyed the writing. Publishing was a distant secondary concern compared to the simple need to write.

It was when I started showing the manuscript to friends – who liked it — that the idea of publishing entered my head. One day I joined a speculative fiction writers group in Kansas City, and took a chapter from Eolyn to them for critique. They ripped it apart, but loved it. (That’s kind of how things work with these guys…) That was the real turning point for me; the moment when I started thinking, “Hmmm…Maybe with a little more work, I could someday see this in print…”

Me: What do you have coming up next?

Karin: I’m working on another novel entitled High Maga. I am very excited about this project. The story picks up a few years after the end of Eolyn. It introduces a new set of conflicts, as well as some new and very interesting characters. It can be read as a sequel or as a stand-alone novel.

High Maga is a darker tale than Eolyn in some ways, more entrenched in the terrible realities of war. Eolyn is at a different moment in her life here, facing formidable dangers and assuming greater responsibilities. The novel features some ruthless villains, and many characters are forced into extraordinarily difficult situations. The writing of High Maga has pushed my limits as an author; but once again, I’ve found that the most challenging aspects of this novel have also been the most fulfilling. High Maga is scheduled for release in 2013.

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