A Writer’s Paradise – Interview with Carolyn Denman

#TheSentinelsOfEden #BlogTour #BooksOnTour #Day3

We are thrilled to speak with Carolyn Denman, author of the spellbinding fantasy series for young adults, The Sentinels of Eden. Today we find out about her journey into the writing world and background information on her books. Welcome Carolyn! 🙂


What kinds of books or particular titles do you enjoy reading and inherit inspiration from?

My dad is to blame for getting me addicted to fantasy novels. I’m sure he deliberately left a copy of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger on the couch that day when I was twelve. My dad is really wise. Before that I only ever read stories with horses in them, and given how often he used to take me to the library as a kid, that must have driven him nuts. My brother and I both became obsessed with both fantasy and sci-fi. I could give you a list of my favourites, but that would take far too long.

What is the significance of your series’ title; The Sentinels of Eden? How did each story come to fruition? Did you plan each book beforehand or did the stories develop over time?

As you’ll see from the third book, the series isn’t just about Lainie. It’s about the long history of the Cherubim who have made sacrifices for Eden. This series is about the ones who stand guard over the land. Who hold it sacred and are born to serve it. Yeah, there’s a metaphor there, but I have no right to tell those stories. I can only try to honour them with my little allegory. That’s what makes the series title significant.

As for planning each book, that’s simply a matter of perspective. I happen to plan by writing out whole scenes and seeing how they feel. Sometimes even the whole book. Then I go back and plan the structure of the story to make it tidy. It would undoubtedly be more efficient for me to write out the entire series as succinct plot points first, but I’ve found that makes for a pretty boring story. I prefer my stories to be driven by what the characters would do, and that only comes by getting to know them. Luckily I’m happy to throw out whole chunks of writing that doesn’t work. I use that writing to get to know my characters. You wouldn’t say that having dinner with your family was ever a waste of time if it didn’t progress the plot of your life story, would you? Of course, that system does mean that I really need to finish at least the first draft of an entire series before I can really get stuck into editing the first book, so if you don’t hear from me for a while after the final book in this series is published, you’ll know why.

 

Why did you set your story in a fictional fantasy region based on a real location? What does its Indigenous heritage mean to you?

The truth is that I never intended to make up a story about a real place. If I could have avoided all reference to a real location I would have. As it turns out, that’s really hard to do. As soon as you mention a particular city, you’ve set it in a vague region. The alternative is to make up all place names except Australia – which I honestly did try – but that just got too confusing. It might have worked if the story had stayed in Nalong and I’d never talked about anywhere else, I suppose. In my mind I used a combination of places to help me get a realistic feel to Nalong; I never intended it to be narrowed down to a particular region. In the end I had to accept that if I’d already admitted it was set in Victoria, and was a few hours’ drive from Melbourne, then that was already a relatively narrow region. At that point I felt it appropriate to recognise that I was writing about a place that is held sacred by the people who live there, and so it was right to acknowledge that up front. If you think about it, even if I’d made up every place name except Australia, it still meant I would have been writing about a place with Indigenous history, and that would still have needed to be acknowledged. Even writing a story set in Melbourne CBD would require the same respect. Hopefully I’ve made it clear enough that I’m not telling any stories that I have no rights to. My intention was always to honour, and to encourage readers to find out more about the rich cultures we have in Australia.
Of course, you could be asking me about Eden as a real location, and its Indigenous heritage – that’s a whole other question!

All of the Sentinels books in the series deal with navigating adolescence and identity, loss, truth and protecting the environment. What other themes / issues underpin these books?

I feel that there is an underlying exploration of the nature of free will in each story. Some people don’t believe in the concept at all, which is fine, but whether we are the sum of our free choices or the inevitable product of our previous choices, we must still grapple with decisions. Especially when we’re faced with completely unexpected situations. If you want to delve even deeper, I could discuss the concept of shame. That ‘unsolvable problem’ that goes beyond guilt and underpins so many mental health issues (although I’m certainly not implying there’s a simplistic cause for any of those). There is no room for shame in Eden. In fact, it’s the one corruption that the Tree of Life can’t simply heal, which is why ‘tainted’ humans aren’t allowed in. Shame is a complex issue, and I’ve only brushed across the surface of it as a theme, really.

What can you tell us about your latest title, Sympath? How does it follow the journey of the previous titles?

Sympath may well annoy a few people because it doesn’t pick up where Sanguine left us – you’ll have to wait for the final book (four) for that. Sympath is Lainie’s mum’s story, set twenty years earlier than Songlines. Annie has her own gifts which pose certain challenges, and she had her own reasons for turning her back on Nalong. Don’t worry. It will all come together in the end and you’ll understand why Annie’s story needed to be told.

Out of the three, Songlines, Sanguine and Sympath, do you have a favourite? If so, which one and why?

At the moment, Sympath is my pride and joy. Partly because until the day it’s released, it’s still mine. All mine. I don’t need to share my friends with anyone. On the other hand, I can’t wait to introduce them to you! Perhaps I have a soft spot for it because I was about the same age as Annie in the time it was set. There’s a lot in this book I can relate to.

What can you reveal about the fourth and final book in the series?

The fourth book, it has a lot of ground to cover. There are more scenes set in Eden, which is scary for me because I don’t think I’ll ever write well enough to do that place justice. There’s also a quest for a sacred object, complete with a depressed elf, a compulsion-driven assassin and a team of supernaturally enhanced…farmers. Well, let’s just see how it all goes.

What has your journey been like with publishing through Odyssey Books? Were there any challenges? How did they support you through the process?

One of the best things about Odyssey is the amazing support I’ve received from the other authors. We really are a team, because each time an Odyssey title does well, it reflects on all of us, and it helps support each of us. Of course there are challenges with the limited inherent ‘reach’ of small press, and we all need to work pretty hard at marketing. It helps to know that Odyssey have great books, so I’m proud to have mine sitting alongside them, and have no hesitation about promoting other Odyssey titles. It would be awkward if I felt pressured to promote books that were terrible!
Being represented by small press is very rewarding. There are quality books available through small press that weren’t selected by someone on a sales team who never even reads novels. A small press book may not sit solidly in a particular genre, or be enough like another best-seller that it can ride along in its tail wind. There are many different readers on this planet, with different tastes. I appreciate publishers like Odyssey who will take a risk on something outside the box, and be able to offer more reading flavours.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, particularly those writing YA novels as a series?

Sure. Here are my top three tips:
– Join a book club relevant to your genre, and read as many of the new releases as you can. The landscape is changing faster than ever before, and you will be left way behind if you don’t keep listening to what your reading demographic want.
– If at all possible, write at least a rough draft of all the books in your series. It doesn’t matter what your writing technique is – whether you plan everything or fly by the seat of your pants – the more you comprehend how it all ends, the more fun you can have along the way. Remember when Harry Potter found that ‘discoloured old tiara’ in the Room of Hidden Things? That was no happy writing accident.
– Buy a Roomba. Who has time to vacuum?

Finally, if you had a special ‘power’, what would it be and why?

I would dearly love to be funnier. Honestly, I wish I could make people laugh more. Genuinely funny people tend to be very intelligent, so that would be a pretty awesome power to have. Intelligence is the key to so much in this society. Intelligence, humour and wisdom. Can I have a three-in-one deal?

Thank you so much for the interview, Carolyn. All the best with all your writing ventures. 😊


The Sentinels of Eden: Sympath Book Launch will be held on Tuesday April 10th at Readings Hawthorn Vic @ 6.30pm.

More details about the launch can be found here.

#fantasyfiction #urbanya #magic #mystery


Grab a Piece of Paradise – It’s Giveaway Time!

Simply tell us who you would love this set, and you’ll be in the running to win the set of three spellbinding books in The Sentinels of Eden series by Carolyn Denman!

For more details click here.


The Sentinels of Eden Blog Tour Schedule

April 8 – April 14

www.justkidslit.com/blog

PLUS!

Sunday April 8

Brydie Wright – www.brydiewright.com

Monday April 9

Susan Day – www.astrosadventuresbookclub.com

Wednesday April 11

Boomerang Books – http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Thursday April 12

Megan Higginson – www.meganhigginson.com/blog

Friday April 13

Share Your Story – www.sharingyourstory.com.au


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