Interview with Aiki Flinthart

Published 2018-06-01.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like to try new things - especially things my characters might need to do. So I do an eclectic bunch of things in my limited spare time. Archery, knife-throwing, martial arts, belly-dancing, painting, lute-playing. In the past I've also tried skydiving, abseiling, white-water rafting, bunjy-jumping, scuba diving, horseriding, various sports and random other things. Keeps life interesting - although the injuries are starting to twinge a little nowadays.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I've been writing since I was very young, so not really. But I do have a vague memory of a school age story involving a couple of kids getting lost in a cave. I think I'd just been on a spelunking trip up to the Chillagoe Caves in Far north Queensland. Clearly made an impression on me!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not the very first, because really, who remembers beginning reader stories. They're not usually very interesting. But I recall reading The Hobbit reasonably young and being utterly enthralled. I went on to learn dwarvish runes (which turned out to be Viking runes, but I didn't know that at the time) and exchanged secret messages with a school friend. I'm guessing that's when I fell into fantasy reading.
How do you approach cover design?
Luckily I work with a fabulous designer (Lou Harper Designs) who seems to know instinctively what I want. I give Lou an idea of the look and layout and what my character looks like. Boom! An epic design comes back that usually needs minimal tweaking.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Argh! That's a paralysing question to ask a writer/reader. Just five? I'll always have a soft spot for The Hobbit because it was such a great Hero's Journey. The MYTH series by Robert Aspirin - because they were awesome at poking fun at fantasy tropes. Most of the Georgette Heyer Regency romance novels - because she was great at writing interesting characters who weren't always perfect and beautiful. The early Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover novels - because many of her characters were representing LGBTQ communities at a time when it wasn't common to do so in stories. The early Anne McCaffrey Pern series because she had such great female protagonists. I know - citing whole series is just cheating, but too bad.
What do you read for pleasure?
I try to read a wide variety of genres - from spy/action, to fantasy, to literature, to non-fiction, to romance, to science fiction. It helps to lend variety to my writing as well. But when I'm stressed or tired, I'll go back to old favourites that require no thinking. I dislike very dark stories, so I steer away from horror and grim-dark fantasy or gory crime with utterly miserable outcomes. I need my sleep.
Describe your desk
My desk is a gorgeous, hand-made laptop table of Ausralian Blackwood. My husband made it for me so I could sit next to him and write. It's heavy, but beautiful. Next to me is a table he made of Australian silky-oak. That's where I keep my To Read pile (or a fraction of it) and pens, notebooks, water bottle etc.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Grew up in Far North Queensland, Australia. My parents were a bit hippy-ish, so I don't think I even owned shoes until I was about five. We spent a lot of time outdoors as kids - on the beach, in the rainforests, swimming in creeks etc. I think it contributed to my adrenalin-junkie kind of hobbies and hence my female characters who aren't content to sit around waiting. Shadows Wake, the first in the Ruadhan Sidhe urban fantasy series, is set in Cairns, North Queensland. And Rowan gets to spend some time in the rainforests and on the beach. That was fun to write.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Ruadhan Sidhe novels are inspired by my love of the fae and my love of rainforests/the outdoors. Frankly, the world is going to pieces, environmentally. So I wanted to create a race of sidhe/faery whose job it is to protect the environment against the stupidity of the human race. Then I threw them into conflict with humans and stood back to see what happened. Rowan Gilmore came along and is doing her darndest to fix things, but she's fighting an uphill battle and is surrounded by a bunch of sidhe and humans who all have hidden agendas and dubious motivations. So many complex characters and difficult decisions. Such fun to write.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was too impatient, originally, to wait around for months and years for traditional publishers to respond to submissions. So I published the 80AD series myself, because I really just wrote them for my son. But then they went ballistic and have had hundreds of thousands of downloads - which is awesome. After that, my next two series have had interest from publishers, but I ended up turning them down because I don't like the lack of control and the ridiculous amount of time it takes to get a book published traditionally. And I don't really care if it's my company name on the cover, or a big-name publisher. I don't write for the recognition. I write because I like to transport people into another world - hopefully one they enjoy.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords made life easy. Apart from a big learning curve on how to format the manuscript, that is. Once I mastered that, Smashwords took over and made the distribution side simple. I really don't have time to upload to a zillion websites and maintain them all.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I LOVE it when fans get in touch and tell me how my stories helped them, or what they liked. I had a 12 year old boy thank me for writing the 80AD series, because it helped him deal with the grief cycle he was experiencing (one of the protagonists, Phoenix, has lost his father and struggles with grief throughout the series). And I had a woman who teaches English in China get in touch to say she used my stories to teach English to her university level students, because there are Chinese characters in the stories and the final of the 80AD series is set in China.
It's a huge buzz to realise that you've actually helped people and made a difference to their lives.
Honestly, you don't get better than that.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

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