Interview with Courtney Bowen

What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, the story behind The Legends of Arria series dates back to sixth grade, 2000, when I had the idea of a girl in a rowboat adrift on an ocean, running aground on the shore of a magical realm called Arria. After a series of adventures, she would have found a new life for her there and tried to raise a family, until her daughter was lost and had to find her way back home. Yet the form of the ideas changed, and Arria changed, so that by 2002, it became the story of a young man who set out on a quest on behalf of the woman he loved in The Knights of Arria 2002, which had a rather simplistic style that developed a bit more in the year or two it took to write.

This story developed over several years, going further ahead a generation or two in the sequels. But then I felt the need to go back and start reworking the beginning of the story, again and again. The 2008 version (on Amazon) was mostly just a revamp of the 2002 version, which added some more depth and plot changes to the story, yet it wasn't enough. I wanted to find a better angle on the story, more mature and developed with characters having real thought processes and getting into backstories and realistic character motivations a bit more. Then I got the idea to get into Coe Baba, Basha's hometown, a bit more and really showcase his adoptive parents Habala and Geda, his sword-fighting mentor Sir Nickleby, Basha's girlfriend Jawen and her family, Oaka and his girlfriend Sisila, which then included her family and finally the Old Man, who became very important in this process.

The Old Man had been lurking in the background for a long while as an immortal storyteller, but he really had no story beyond that to latch onto. So I gave him one and created new characters, Nisa and her mother Brigga, to help him fill out his new role. When I first came up with the idea of Nisa, I thought of her as Oaka's and Basha's sister who would narrate the story and eventually team up with the Old Man. But being their sister didn't really work out and so the relationship was changed. I felt the need to delve into Jawen's home life more, introduce her extended family and get her father Lapo the merchant more involved. Previously, Jawen's romances with Basha and Hastin were simplified, so I made it more complex, unpredictable, and emotional.

This also happened with Sisila. I made her the baron's daughter, Hastin became her brother, and I moved away from portraying her 'crazy/grief-stricken' phase over Oaka leaving. Iibala became Sir Nickleby's daughter and more important as a character, more heavily involved in the action of the story, same with Sir Nickleby as well. Habala's and Geda's roles were more enhanced as parents and their relationship changed and developed, especially with the introduction of Smidge, Geda's brother, to complicate matters.

Coe Baba as a whole had been a rather simple, unfulfilled place. So I made the town bigger and more complex, with fully realized characters and places. It was also more mysterious and haunted, being genuinely threatened by evil outside forces. It made the lives of the characters inhabiting this place a whole lot more interesting. All of these changes were made with the start of Basha's story in The Smiling Stallion Inn. The consequences of these changes continue on in Servants and Followers, Power Over Death, The Tiger of Light and more coming soon.
Who are your favorite authors?
One of the first authors that I absolutely adored was Lloyd Alexander, who wrote such books as the Westmark trilogy, The Iron Ring, The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen, The Arkadians and the Prydain Chronicles. The very first book of his that I read was Time Cat. Terry Pratchett became a favorite author of mine and I have read almost all of his Discworld novels. I really got into Neil Gaiman with Neverwhere, and went on to read Amerian Gods, Anansi Boys and several volumes of The Sandman. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter also became a favorite of mine, although I never would have read the first book if I had not received it at a Christmas book exchange in 1999. I struggled somewhat with Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, but it was rewarding, and I read Cryptonomicon.

I am fond of Michael Chabon and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Diana Wynne Jones is also a favorite of mine, especially with Deep Secret. Who can forget William Goldman and The Princess Bride? In 2006, I started watching Doctor Who, and I have gone deep into it, reading various New Adventures, Virgin Adventures, Eighth Doctor Adventures, IDW Doctor Who comics and Doctor Who Magazine comics. And the poor animals of Richard Adams' The Plague Dogs and Watership Down. In some ways, there is no simple answer as to 'Who are your favorite authors', for I like a lot of them.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
A difficult question, but...Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold is definitely one of them. It was one of the first adult books that I read, crossing over from the YA side of the store. It was so serious, dramatic, heartbreaking and traumatic at times, yet it was so hopeful as well. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay also falls into this same category. I am not as steeped in comic books as some, but this is definitely a love letter to that Golden Age of comic books. The Princess Bride is also very heartfelt, and when I first read it, I actually almost believed in William Goldman's writer's story, that he tried to get ahold of the rights to Buttercup's Baby, and couldn't get it. The book version itself went far deeper into the characters and was more serious than I had imagined it would be. Deep Secret is a pretty glorious young adult novel by Diana Wynne Jones that revels in science fiction and fantasy. Finally, but not least, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which is a pretty hard, tough novel at times that burrows deep into your heart and mind.
How long have you been writing or telling stories?
Ever since I can remember. I have old journals full of illustrated stories, comic strips, fantasy-land maps and character descriptions. Some of these stories were based off of toys that I owned, making up names and stories for them until I stopped playing. As I got older, some of that reliance on journals continued, as I wrote down story ideas and drew out maps for them on paper, but then I moved some of my compositions onto the computer, using word-processing software to type them out. This eventually led to the creation of Arria.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Exploring new ideas and working out the relationship and interaction between the characters, trying to get at their motivations and who they are. Maybe instilling a sense of mystery, romance, and fun into the proceedings as well. The greatest joy might be launching into a new scene at a different angle, trying to get at what happens next and coming up with something unique.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on the fifth volume of The Legends of Arria series, editing more of the Legends of Arria 2002 novels, and I will soon publish the fourth volume of this series. I am also thinking about branching off more with different, but fascinating stories. I am definitely looking forward to going deeper into Arria and showing more of it to readers.
Published 2014-09-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Tiger of Light (The Legends of Arria, Volume 4)
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Series: The Legends of Arria, Book 4. Pre-release—available October 7, 2014. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 130,200. Language: English. Category: Fiction » Literature » Visionary & metaphysical
Despite losing a brother and a lover, Basha and his friends continue, guided by fate and determination, to reveal the truth about Basha’s family and confront Doomba. Across the country, their allies prepare for battle as evil insidiously attacks them and a magical force for good revives. Please rate and review.
Power Over Death (The Legends of Arria, Volume 3)
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Series: The Legends of Arria, Book 3. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 161,330. Language: English. Published: July 6, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
The town of Coe Baba reels from a devastating massacre and prepares for trial. Basha and his friends learn more about their magical powers and how to wield the Swords of Arria. Yet doubts begin to surface about their capabilities as they face death and the darkness of Doomba’s shadows. The group begins to crack underneath the pressure. What power can overcome death? Please rate & review.
Servants and Followers (The Legends of Arria, Volume 2)
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Series: The Legends of Arria, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 136,570. Language: English. Published: March 15, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Basha and Oaka set off on a dangerous quest to retrieve Tau's Cup and survive several mad adventures. They are joined by Fato the talking falcon and Monika, a warrior who has suffered tragedy in her past. Oaka suspects the newcomers hide deep secrets. Back home, their mother suspects something is wrong and Basha's former girlfriend Iibala gets involved to help out. Please rate and review.
The Knights of Arria 2002 (The Legends of Arria 2002, Vol. 1)
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Price: Free! Words: 151,220. Language: English. Published: February 1, 2014. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
The 2002 version--Basha sets off on his legendary quest for Tau's Cup after swearing a promise to his beloved Jawen, but he gets much more than he bargained for when he and his adoptive brother Oaka are pursued throughout all of Arria by minions of the evil Doomba, intent on stopping the rebirth of an ancient force for good. Please rate and review.
The Sable Valley
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Price: Free! Words: 4,200. Language: English. Published: October 24, 2013. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
And then she was waking up to the sound of klaxons blaring. Lieutenant Caroline Swanson, lately graduated from the Central Planet's space program, revives in the midst of a horrible nightmare on board her ship. Please rate and review.
The Smiling Stallion Inn (Legends of Arria, Vol. 1)
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Series: The Legends of Arria, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 126,630. Language: English. Published: September 15, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Basha the adopted son of the local innkeeper wants to propose to Jawen the wealthy merchant's daughter at the Courtship ritual. But family, former lovers, and past scandals get in the way. As the evil minions of Doomba seek to destroy the tiger of light before he can arise, unlikely protectors step up to defend Basha and the townspeople of Coe Baba. Please rate and review.
A Song of My Heart
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Price: Free! Words: 1,710. Language: English. Published: September 2, 2013. Category: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
A short, abstract collection of poetry and song lyrics sharing feelings of love, lost relationships, and the art of music in expression. Please rate and review.