Interview with R. L. Blackhurst

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in faraway places. I spent a lot of my childhood in Bahrain. This was a very mysterious and exotic place for a child. I would love going down the souk with my mother. There was gold, spices, perfume, rolls of colourful fabric, all sorts of wonderful sights and smells. The smell of sandalwood always takes me back to my childhood. When I was older my parents moved to a finca, in a remote part of southern Spain. The excitement of bazaars and ex-pat clubs was replaced by hills and olive trees. I would trudge all over the the hills and through long dried up river beds, with my dog Jez, and go on all sorts of adventures. I think both the places I grew up in had strong roots in the past. Traditions and ways of life not yet corrupted by the modern world. I am not sure what these places are like now, as I have not return since my childhood, but I imagine there are still parts of them which have that ancient feel. I love history and I think that the places in which I was lucky enough to grow up helped nurture that love of the past.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
To be read! I loved writing but I wanted to share it. Like most indies, I sent out chapters, cover letters and got all the usual responses. It is hard and I thought it was unfair that if you wanted to be a writer that you could be prevented from ever having a word of yours read, because a bunch of people felt "you weren't quite right for their list," or "would be difficult to place." There really is no other profession like it. I know plenty of musicians, artists who have said, "this is what I want to do" and they are doing it. They make a living. They don't have record deals, and the like. But they are doing what they love and earning a living. I wanted that. I hated the term "vanity publishing." Sophia Loren, one of my idols, said that "if to be vain is to have a high opinion of ones' looks then we should all learn to be vain." If to be self published is to have a high opinion of ones' writing then writers unite and nurture that high opinion. Companies like smashwords have allowed many great writers to be discovered by readers (the important folk).
I took my rejection letters, I did the rounds. Then I jumped at the indie thing and became READ! Power to the people!
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are my driving force. When somebody contacts me and tells me how much they enjoyed one of my books, it makes me want to write more books for them, and ones even better than the last. It is fantastic to know that someone has completely immersed themselves in a world you have created, and that they have loved the journey. When people take the time to contact you, or write a review, then you feel that you have achieved your objective; which is to write books that people devour, love, and think about long after the final page. It is nice when you sell a book, but nothing beats hearing from someone who's read it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do!!! I used to love composition in English. Our teacher would give us a topic/title and for homework we would have to write a story. A lot of the other kids would hate it. But I loved it. I remember she once gave us the title "The strange object," and I wrote a story about me cutting my foot on something sticking out of the sand on a beach. To cut a short story short, the object turned out to be the fossilized teeth of Henry VIII. And I remember the last line of my story being . . . "and of course nobody believed that I'd been bitten by Henry VIII," or something like that! There was also a story called "The Scruffy Loin," (Lion spelled incorrectly). I think that this may have been before the Henry VIII story. My Dad loved it. Mostly because of the spelling of "Loin." Those are the two stories that stick in my mind. I loved writing stories and wanted to be a writer from a very early age. The love of history was there too . . . from Henry VIII to the Knights Templar with a good chunk of fantasy thrown in.
What are you working on next?
A prequel to "The Wolves of Solomon," called "Blood and Brethren" which is set in 1291 in Acre. When I wrote WOS, there was a lot of stuff that had gone on in the past that linked all of the characters. I really wanted to go back and get into that "stuff" and explore those early relationships. There were also characters that were important to the story in WOS but weren't the "main" characters. For example, Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Templars. Although he is a real historical figure, my take on him is fictional and I was excited about going back to when he was younger and more fiery at the fall of Acre, just before he became the Grand Master.
I didn't plan to have a sequel or a prequel to the Wolves of Solomon. "Wolf" was inspired by one of the characters in WOS, again someone I wanted to know better. I find that my characters dictate where I go next. Some demand whole books, where they are the main protagonist (as was the case in Wolf). And I have become so enthralled with my character Jacques de Molay, that I feel inspired to go back further in time, to when he was even younger (ooooh and more fiery). "The Wolves of Solomon," started with the end of the Templars, but there is near two hundred years of Templar history that precedes this. I may end up going back in time, book by book, until I get to the beginning.
What is your writing process?
I liken my writing process to building a human being, from a skeleton up. I start with the bones of a story. This is my general idea and I know roughly what the story is going to be about and where it is going. Then comes the flesh, the meatiness of the story. I write it. Characters arrive, they grow and develop, and they often take over. I think about my story all the time, it plays like a movie in my mind. I'll play out a scene in my head (when I am doing other stuff i.e. laundry etc.) and then I will write it. I don't write stuff down, or create flow charts of ideas or anything like that. I store stuff (conversations, fights . . . whatever) in my head and then it goes on the page. Sometimes a scene that I have in my head may not get written for months, but it pretty much plays out how I imagined it when it does. Once the flesh of the story is down (I guess first draft) then it gets its skin. I guess when the skin goes on, the story becomes refined. Things that need to be re-written are, and everything is tightened up. The clothing is another edit, and then comes the accessories; the cover, formatting, title finalization and back cover blurb. Then the human being is complete, the book is finished.
Describe your desk
Messy! It's beautiful chaos, nobody can understand it but me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like going for long walks with my hounds. Just like when I was a girl. There are many wonderful places to walk where I live, and room for the imagination to roam freely. I am glad that my dogs are German shepherds because sometimes I spook myself silly when in the woods, or the like! When I walk I think about stories, ones I am writing, ones to be written. I find that I think clearly when I am out in the great outdoors and I get inspired and get all my best ideas.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords don't just help you get your book ready for distribution and then out in the big wide world, they care about how you are doing after you are out there. The guides that are written and bloggy stuff keeps you up to date with trends and encourages you to try different things with your work, and keep going at it. Everything about smashwords is positive and upbeat and it is infectious. Sometimes if you are a bit down about stuff, a little golden nugget of inspiration comes in from Smashwords, and you have a stab at it from a different angle. I love that. Success is about not giving up and Smashwords makes sure that you don't!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love that no two days are the same. I have done many things and have many interests, but once something becomes routine, then I lose interest and move onto the next job or thing. Writing isn't like that. Even when I am working on a book, the story may take months and months to write (even years!) but I never get bored because each chapter is new, each page, each paragraph, each word. As soon as your fingers hit the keyboard you are in new territory, a new sentence is written that will lead you somewhere. It is fantastic. It is creation, every moment.
Also I get great joy out of creating characters! I get very excited about them. There is nothing better than building a character, good or bad. I love seeing how my characters develop through a story. I don't like to pigeonhole them too much, as I like them to surprise me, and many of them have.
What genre do you enjoy writing/reading?
Science fiction and fantasy. When I was a child I was always fascinated with my father's collection of books, these were by authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Anne MaCaffrey and Ray Bradbury. They had fantastic titles such as "The October Country," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Dragonflight." I loved the covers too and although the books were too advanced for me back then, I was absolutely fascinated by them, until the time came that I was old enough to read them. They were every bit as good as the covers suggested. I knew that what I loved to read, I wanted to write. I always found the titles of SF and fantasy books so tantalizing and couldn't wait to step into the worlds that had been created. I wanted to create such worlds. When I wrote the Wolves of Solomon I loved that I was writing a book that was based on historical fact, but that I was creating an alternate account, an account with werewolves.
Published 2013-09-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Wolf (Wolves of Solomon Book Two)
Series: Wolves of Solomon. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 107,820. Language: English. Published: August 14, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Historical » Paranormal
France, 1311 . . . Raymond Caradas, more wolf than man, is outcast since betraying his former master to save the Templar brethren from the French King’s fires. About to commit a diabolical act, he is prevented by she-wolf Kit, who has sought him out for a purpose. Drawn to her, Caradas is pulled back into the Templar struggle to face new enemies determined to destroy the supernatural knights.
The Wolves of Solomon (Wolves of Solomon Book One)
Series: Wolves of Solomon. Price: Free! Words: 182,190. Language: English. Published: August 8, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Historical » Paranormal
England, 1307. . . Templar Knight Galeren de Massard is sent to investigate an incident where a nun claims to have been attacked by "a man who became a wolf." When Galeren meets Catherine, he instinctively knows that her attacker was Esquin de Floyran and that his return is dangerous for the increasingly unpopular Templar Order. A supernatural tale revolving around the fall of the Templars.