Interview with April White

Could you tell us a bit about the types of stories you write?
I write stories I want to read, about strong, capable women, interesting men, and wise, fascinating children. I love history, any kind of history, and even better if it’s hidden, secret, or underground. Historical mysteries are my favorite, and I love to play with true history and real people, weaving my fictional world through the actual one. The Immortal Descendants series is a time travel, fantasy, YA, romance hybrid, with a 17-year-old free-running graffiti artist who discovers quite by accident that she’s a descendant of Time when she ends up in Jack the Ripper’s London on the night of the double murders. And the Baker Street series spins off that one and into Victorian London, following a young man who spends time with Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle, and may or may not have been the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Google and I are in a relationship, while Wikipedia and I have a little platonic thing going on the side, though I do give it lunch money every month to support my habit. But my true loves are the rabbit holes I go down on the trail of this historical inconsistency, or that mysterious reference. Those are the pieces that make the puzzles interesting. What happened to Elizabeth I’s black pearls, and what’s in the ghost station under the British Museum, or what did Bram Stoker really see at Whitby Abby? I actually can’t write without internet, because there are too many facts, details, maps, photos, and definitions that need to be looked up as I put a scene together, so although I do research before beginning a book, I also research all the way through. I once stopped reading a series because the author got lazy and renamed locations rather than put effort into writing them correctly, so getting facts right is important to me. Everything in my books is as true as I can make it … until I start messing with the truth.
What is the most difficult aspect of writing about characters of the opposite sex?
I’m intrigued by the differences among people – all people, of all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc - but I find I’m more intrigued by the similarities between all of us. Those are the things that allow us, as readers, to relate to the characters in the books we read. I have to find those things in each character that I can relate to, regardless of how different they might be from me, in order to breathe life into them. It’s often harder for me to write certain types of female characters than to write men, because women sometimes baffle me, while men are usually pretty simple to understand. *Cough* Food. *Cough* Sex. I’m kidding of course. Kind of.
What was your hardest scene to write?
My hardest scene to write is one in which I don’t understand the motivation of a character to say or do what they just said or did. That’s usually about the time I go for a dog walk and contemplate all the whys. I’m lazy enough to hate erasing chunks of scenes, so I sometimes have to work hard to figure out why that thing just happened, but when I do, I inevitably like that bit the most because it revealed some hidden depth or motivation that really brings that character to life.
Do you read much, and if so, who are some of your favorite authors?
I love to read, and usually have an e-book and a different audiobook going at any given time. I feel about authors the way some people feel about actors, and was a terrible fangirl the first time I met Patrick Rothfuss. I have favorites in most genres:
Fantasy – Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Kevin Hearne, Laini Taylor, Rae Carson, Amanda Bouchet, Amy Harmon, Suzanne Collins, Jeff Wheeler, Robin McKinley, Rachel Caine, Michael J. Sullivan, Marie Rutkoski, Heather Lyons
Science Fiction – Andy Weir, Orson Scott Card, Ernest Cline, Nathan Van Coops, M.R. Carey.
Mystery – C.S. Harris, Ben Aaronovitch, Laurie R. King
Paranormal – Elizabeth Hunter, Darynda Jones, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh
Historical Romance – Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Joanna Bourne, Courtney Milan, Lisa Kleypas, Jennifer Ashley, Mary Balogh, Grace Burrowes, Mary Jo Putney, Kerrigan Byrne, Nichole Van
Contemporary Romance – Penny Reid, Amy Harmon, LH Cosway, Daisy Prescott, Kristan Higgins, Kim Holden, Rainbow Rowell, Laura Florand
Literary Fiction – Amor Towles, Fredrik Backman, Alice Hoffman, Barbara Kingsolver
Are you a coffee house author? Able to immerse yourself in writing regardless of the level of noise and distraction around you? Or do you need to be sitting alone in a nice quiet room to find your muse?
I usually write alone – sitting on my bed, with the dog next to me, a cup of coffee and my notebook on the nightstand – but I’m actually really productive in a busy space, and often write at the local market/restaurant, with headphones on, waiting for my son to finish cross country running. When I was in college, I always studied better at a busy café where I could shut out all the noise, than at a library where a pencil dropping was a distraction.
What inspired you to write the Immortal Descendants series?
My niece is a reader like I am, and for her 16th birthday I sent her a box of books. In order to justify the purchase of so many paperbacks, I read them all first – and I realized how very interesting young adult fantasy had become. Urban fantasy is my favorite – this world, but with magical elements – and young characters who experience things for the first time really appealed to me. Then it became a matter of breaking down what I like to read, finding the elements that fit together, and a story began to take shape.

The fact that Saira is a free running graffiti artist came from a script my husband and I had researched and plotted but never written, and the Immortals – Time, Fate, Nature, War, and Death – were inspired by a Piers Anthony fantasy series I read in college, where those are actually jobs that people hold. Then, when it became clear that Saira was a time traveler, the rules of time travel came from Simon Hawke’s Time Wars series, which was also a college read.

Building a world requires putting pieces of everything you’ve learned and everyone you know into it to make it authentic. My kids are in the Immortal Descendants’ world, as are several friends, my husband, my dog, and a couple of people who might have been nasty to me once in my life. There’s also mythology, politics, and a subversive feminist streak that runs through the stories, and I’ll definitely own some of Saira’s opinions on life, love, and personal responsibility.
What’s the best thing about the series you wrote? If you could change one thing, what would it be?
The best thing about the series I wrote is that it’s done. That’s the easy answer, but not as trite as it sounds. When I started Marking Time I thought I might be writing a trilogy at best, which gives some idea how much pre-plotting I’d done. As I dug into the story I realized that with five Immortals there should be five books, and I honestly didn’t know what the over-arching story could be that needed five books to tell. I did eventually figure it out, which is why having a complete series that holds together and tells the stories I meant to tell is the best thing about it.

If I could change one thing, I’d have had the foresight to begin working with my editor at the beginning of Marking Time instead of waiting until I began writing Tempting Fate to hire her. When I was finished with book three I went back and re-edited book one, then handed it to her and her fearsome red pen, and the resulting Second Edition is 10k words less than the first one. I had become a better writer with three books under my belt, and working with my editor has been a more focused education in writing than my English Lit degree ever was.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer? What’s your least favorite thing?
My favorite thing about being a writer is two parts. The solo, personal part is that moment when a story element I put into place several chapters, or even several books ago is exactly what my character needs to do the thing I’ve just backed her into a corner to do. Most of those are unplanned, because I tend to write by broad outline (translation, I’m a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants based on knowing who my characters are, why they’re there, and where they’re going. How they get there is the pantser part) and when that happens I feel like the smartest, cleverest, most creative person alive. Never mind the fact that I was the one who write that character into a corner in the first place.

The public, community part is connecting with people through my books. I love when something I’ve written makes a difference for someone who read it, or when someone really “gets” Saira or Ringo or Archer because they are them, or they know them, or they want to be them. I love telling stories that make people feel and think, and I LOVE inspiring a reader to learn more about some of the history I’ve played with in my books.

The part of writing that I like least is the beginning of a new book, when the story is still creaking its way out of my brain, the characters are still finding their voices, and the roadmap to the world is still out of focus. That’s the time when all my insecurities come screaming into the room, and it takes an act of will to firmly close the door in the face of You Suck, and Really? so I can get some work done.
You’re on an epic fantasy quest, over exotic, foreign, far away alternative reality lands. Who would be in #TeamApril? The Mentor? The Sidekicks? The Love Interest?
This is an awesome question!
The Mentor – Neil Gaiman (author) or Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale (Wizard character from Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series).
The Sidekicks – Ringo (The Immortal Descendants and An Urchin of Means, for brains, stealth, and craftiness), Hermione (The Harry Potter series, for brains, magic, and moral compass), and Trinity (The Matrix movies, for brains, brawn, and badassery).
The Love Interest – Can Divit (Can Yaman) from Erkenci Kus (a Turkish TV romantic comedy series). Watch it. You’ll understand.
Published 2018-11-20.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

An Urchin of Means
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 57,570. Language: English. Published: January 30, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Victorian, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Historical
Ringo Devereux knows far too much for a young Victorian man. There's no simple explanation that doesn't involve improbable conversations about the future, and even his origins as a street thief are too dangerous to reveal. An encounter with a ten-year-old pickpocket, and a luncheon with Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle draw Ringo back into the shadows of his criminal past.
Cheating Death
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 140,010. Language: English. Published: January 24, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Romance » Time travel
The thrilling conclusion to The Immortal Descendants series, a life has ended, the future is lost, and a war has just begun.
Waging War
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 121,140. Language: English. Published: January 26, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Romance » Time travel
A desperate manhunt drags Saira, Archer, and Ringo into World War II where they come face-to-face with a Monger assassin on a suicide mission to split Time.
Changing Nature
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 132,640. Language: English. Published: January 24, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Romance » Time travel
In book three of the Immortal Descendant series, Bishop Wilder may have fled to medieval France, where marauding wolves and Joan of Arc are just the beginning of the dangers facing Saira, Archer, and Ringo. Repairing a time stream split drops them into the Hundred Years' War, and in the end, Saira must confront her greatest challenge yet: the truth about her changing Nature.
Tempting Fate
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 125,500. Language: English. Published: June 29, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
Book two of the Immortal Descendants series takes Saira and Archer to the Tower of London to rescue a princess and stop a madman from stealing a Seer's blood. The world of Clockers, Seers, Shifters, Mongers and Suckers is more dangerous than ever for Saira and her friends as they run for their lives ... through time.
Marking Time
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 146,510. Language: English. Published: February 4, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Romance » Time travel
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
17-year-old tagger, Saira Elian can handle anything... until she accidentally time-travels to 1888 London on the night of Jack the Ripper's double murders. She discovers she's part of a world where the Descendants of Time, Nature, Fate, War and Death have skills that set them apart from normal people... and Saira's one of them.