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Interview with Young Adult Authors M. Latimer-Ridley

Writing duos aren’t a rarity, but M. Latimer-Ridley are. Two writers with impeccable taste (after all, they follow me on Twitter) and an excellent sense of humour, I was very pleased to hear that they’d finally finished the novel they’d been talking about for so long. To celebrate the publication of Legend Unleashed, I shone a light in their eyes and subjected them to the third degree.

Congratulations on publishing Legend Unleashed!

Many thanks James!! We really appreciate the chance to answer your questions and visit your blog! It’s nice to be somewhere new instead our old blogging gaff *glances round, peering in behind the blogging curtain* Very nice. Pretty swanky place you have here! :D

Thanks. Please put that down. Now, tell us all about Legend Unleashed.

Well, it’s a young adult fantasy novel. Our main character, Temperance Levinthal is accidently swept up into a magical world by the handsome Alastair Byron. She’s really a very reluctant participant in their adventure, which would be nothing like us, as we’d be leaping in joy at the chance to see real magic. She’s not so impressed!

However, we’ll give you the blurb! It describes the book without giving too much away:

When an infamous criminal is unleashed from his prison, it has consequences for everyone in Carwick. Temperance Levinthal in particular…

Temperance is satisfied with her ordinary life. Dealing with her eccentric, childlike parents is all the excitement she needs. That changes when Alastair Byron returns home.

After a failed matchmaking attempt by her father, sparks fly between her and Alastair-just not the good kind.

They are forced together though, when they are implicated in a grisly murder. Their search for the truth leads them to a secret world beneath Carwick, filled with werewolves, wizards and other magical faey.

However, uncovering the truth is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.

There are secrets within secrets.

Even Alastair may be more than he seems…

Now tell us a little about yourselves. What made you want to be writers?

Ridley: Well…I know this is true for Latimer as for me but I’ve always loved to write. When I was younger I got unending encouragement from my parents and one English teacher in primary school in particular. She was fantastic. Plus my school was really brilliant about inviting Irish authors to visit (Gordon Snell-Maeve Binchey’s husband, Siobhan Parkinson, Don Conroy, Tom McCaughren, Martin Waddell, Michael Mullen all came in my time there), we were really spoilt, so from a very early age I was aware of what an author did. I remember in particular Marita Conlon McKenna visiting, I loved her famine novels. I brought a massive pile of books up to her to sign, she was so friendly and she wrote, ‘To Rachel. Another Bookworm! Lots of luck.” I remember thinking; I’d love to create worlds and characters, to make people love these imaginary places like she does, and so all down through the years I’ve tried to do just that.

Latimer: I didn’t read as much as Ridley when I was young. I did draw a lot of pictures though, and as I drew them I would think up stories for the person or creature I was drawing, to the point where I was actually talking to the character in the picture! In later years, I got really caught up in reading, particularly my brother’s high-fantasy books. I enjoyed coming up with stories and ideas. I don’t really know when I put pen to paper, but once I did I never stopped. When I get an idea, I just want to write about it! And meeting Ridley and striking up a friendship with her, really encouraged the ideas! Whenever I told people I was writing, no one ever said ‘that’s silly’- throughout my life everyone has been very supportive.

Having the support of your friends and family is so important. I suppose you’ve got support built into your partnership! How did that come about?

Ridley: Well, we’ve been friends for years and we have almost the exact same reading tastes, so we’ve always swopped books, giving our RSAs or LSAs (Ridley/Latimer Stamp of Approval) on the particularly brilliant ones. Many times after a book, we’d gossip about it, discussing what we would have changed or added and eventually we started to joke about writing a book together. We started to believe that we could put everything we’d ever wanted to see into it. Our main aim was and has always been to create a book, a real ‘find’ that would deserve an RSA or LSA.

Latimer: We can pinpoint the moment we decided to write a book. We were out for a walk one day, talking about books and we sort of stopped and said… ‘we could write one?… could we? We could… right?’ Then summer of that very year, we started work on a series – that had many incarnations until it reached the final plot! But it was fun, we worked on it in the library non-stop, annoying other people with our whispering and spending all day there! Pretty good fun, because during breaks Ridley took me around the library pulling out books going, ‘read this, and that’ and so on; I caught up on lots of books she read in her childhood!

What’s the writing process like? Do you have to make many compromises or are two heads better than one?

Ridley: No, there haven’t had to be many compromises I don’t think. No major ones anyway! We’re very respectful of the other’s ideas or dislikes. Two heads are definitely better than one, at least for us, we bounce ideas off each other and they build to even greater things than if we’d just thought things up alone. Plus it’s fun! :D We tend to have massive long tea breaks where we think up plots that usually start off with a particular character, or scene or following the words, ‘wouldn’t it be brilliant if…’, then we divide everything up into chapter summaries and we each get half of them. One of us starts the book and the other ends it. Simples.

Latimer: We’re lucky in that we can say, ‘no that idea’s not going to work’ or ‘hey how about this?’ I think it helps make our writing and ideas stronger and we’re very similar in terms of where we want to take characters. It is fun to see the idea grow and change into the finished product. All our ideas for books seem to start in a very different place to where they end up – but it’s definitely fun, because you are almost a reader yourself!

What are your influences?

Ridley: Anything and everything really, travelling, art, history, the discovery channel! In terms of reading I love fantasy, young adult and crime novels. Some of my favourite writers include Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K Rowling. I also love animated films, the tales that Pixar, Aardman and Dreamworks tell are fantastic.

Latimer: I’m influenced by history and science; in little ways, like sometimes I read something and it sparks an idea. When I travel and see new things I often come back with new ideas. In terms of writers, I love Terry Pratchett’s humour and quirky characters; I love J.K Rowling’s world and J.R.R Tolkien is just a master storyteller.

Will either of you try a solo venture some day? Or are together until the end?

Ridley: Well, I’ve no plans for any. Latimer, you off to pastures greener? <(; _;)>

Latimer: I don’t think so. It’s M. Latimer-Ridley for the long haul. We have so many books yet to write, I doubt either of us will be going anywhere soon. I think a lot of ventures we have in mind fall under the M. Latimer-Ridley banner.

Ridley: We’re not against it, but either way, I think even if one of us went off to do a solo project, it would be as a side venture and it would never be completely by ourselves, we’d definitely seek the input and feedback about it from the other person.

Latimer: Yes, I think that would be the case. We’d never be 100% solo and M. Latimer-Ridley would always be around regardless.

I think our first interaction was you telling me how much you love dragons, yet your novel is about werewolves. What gives?

Funny thing is we have discussed dragons in the past and whether we could feature them in one of the books, but as much as we love them, they just never seem to fit in to any of our plots, well not the ones that we have so far…but one day perhaps! :D

You’ve mentioned that Legend Unleashed is your fourth novel. What happened to the first three?

Ridley: It’s the fifth book now; sometimes I forget there’s a fourth book written. We have a four book series already under our belts. These were the very first books we originally started writing together. They took us five and half years to finish. The plot for Legend Unleashed was fleshed out for about three years before we actually wrote it. We felt we really needed to get the characters of the series we were already working on and that world out of our systems before we could move on. They’re a different genre too, more like fantasy novels, and they need a lot of editing. I think over time we gradually gravitated towards the young adult genre and for the future books we have planned they definitely seem to be within that area.

Latimer: We’ll definitely be back to them one day, but they are our very hairy babies at the moment! They need a lot of work, but they’ll get it one day!

Do you think you’ll ever release this series?

Definitely, though we just haven’t included it on our publishing and writing schedule for the next year. There’s so much editing to do on it, four whole books, it’s a bit of a daunting task! But we really love the characters and series, so it will definitely see the light of day!

So the series was fantasy but Legend Unleashed is young adult? What drew you to YA?

Really, the fantasy series isn’t a proper epic fantasy, there are definitely more elements of YA than usually found in a pure fantasy novel. So I suppose it wasn’t so much that we switched genres, we just refined what we liked to write about. Fantasy, but with a young adult twist on it!

You’ve published Legend Unleashed through Cranmer Publishing. What led you to them rather than going it alone?

Cranmer Publishing is actually our business. We do consider it a separate joint venture however, to our co-authors status. So we’re business partners too. We’ve always set out to be as professional as possible in all aspects of our books. After long discussions, we decided we would establish Cranmer Publishing and eventually, when we feel it is the right time and we’ve gained enough insight and experience, we will begin to accept work from other authors. That day is certainly not within sight yet however. We’ve freelanced out a lot of the jobs in terms of cover design, structural editing, copy editing and formatting, so we’ve begun to build up a good team behind us.

What is it about publishing others’ work that appeals to you?

Oh, it’s that dreamy notion of finding that diamond in the rough! To be the first to set eyes on the next great book, isn’t that why most people go into the publishing industry? That future is a long way off for us though!

And what is a Cranmer?

It’s connected to our pen name. We both went to Oxford separately and we each discovered the story of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. For some reason, it really stuck with us. However, there was also a third man that was connected to their story, and that was Thomas Cranmer. So we thought it would be a nice way to connect the three together again.

You created a book trailer which I’ve previously raved about. What led you to create an animated trailer?

Ridley: And we were chuffed you liked it so much!! We both love art, so it seemed natural to wander down that route when we were brainstorming ideas for the trailer. Animation is also another passion of mine. I love watching all of the Pixar and Dreamworks films, not to mention Aardman. That these lumps of clay or computer dolls (or ‘character rigs’) are manipulated with such skill to show emotion and movement that we cry and laugh as we follow their stories on screen; I just think that it’s amazing really, almost like magic. Good writing does the same; characters that never before existed, are now very real in our heads, all through the power of words. I wanted us to give animation a try as it was another facet of our world building, I had no doubt in my mind we could succeed in creating something and if we did, it would definitely be a unique trailer, though unique in a good way we’d hoped!! Plus as an added bonus, I got to combine two of my passions!

Latimer: The trailer was really Ridley’s hard work for sure! I merely whip-cracked! I think it was born out of passion and a desire to try something a bit different, which is what we like to do.

What does the “M” stand for?

I’m afraid it’s very boring. However, it shall remain our little secret and if we told you, we’d have to give you a potion to erase your memory. :D
OBLIVIATE! *ping*

Protego. What’s next for M. Latimer-Ridley?

Next will be the sequel for Legend Unleashed, which is nearly finished, that won’t be out until late 2013 though, sooner than that we also have a short story planned, featuring a young Temperance. Then we have many other plots and ideas bubbling away on the backburner, for example last weekend we were discussing ideas for a book that’s at the back of a queue of six others patiently waiting to be written. Sometimes, we get excited by a new character or plot and then realise with a sigh, we won’t get to it for another few years. (Together we really aren’t short of ideas!) Eventually, we’d also love to have our four book series edited and published but we know we need to be patient on that one!

Finally, what is it about dragons you love so much?

Ridley: How could you not love them? They’re terrifying and beautiful all at the same time! One of the best fantasy creatures ever! There really aren’t enough books out there with dragons featuring heavily in them! I can’t wait to see what Smaug looks like in the new film, The Hobbit!

Latimer: Could we make a werewolf-dragon? No, *thinking*… wait… that would basically be Falkor from The Neverending Story, wouldn’t it? Oh, I love him!

Buy Legend Unleashed nowYou can buy Legend Unleashed now from all major eretailers including:

Amazon US: ebook paperback

Amazon UK: ebook paperback

Smashwords: ebook

While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you can also check out M Latimer-Ridley’s blog and website.

Book Trailers: Are They Any Good?

Personally I don’t like the idea of a book trailer. I think trying to use a visual medium to advertise a book is akin to putting wasabi on your chocolate digestives; they just don’t go together. Yet indie authors, with cost-free hosting in the form of YouTube, are making book trailers in their thousands.

Fair play to them. Indie authors don’t have access to book shops and the Internet is a noisy place. It’s a struggle to be seen at all. But I wonder if a book trailer is the best way to be seen. Most of them seem to be fuzzy cover stills overlaid with hyperbolic tag lines and clichés. The lack of budget is obvious. After all the hosting is free but the production is not.

And even if Peter Jackson directed your book trailer with an epic budget, wouldn’t a cast and a set and a soundtrack kill the reader’s imagination stone dead? Half the fun of a book is turning black and white text into a rich and vibrant world in your head. If a book trailer does that for you, isn’t the experienced tarnished?

(Having said all that, M. Latimer-Ridley have created the only book trailer I have, to date, ever liked. They made it themselves and the result shows real care and creativity. It also keeps the door to my imagination open whilst still generating an atmosphere. Excellent stuff!)

Indie authors seem to love book trailers right now, but I’m interested in readers’ opinion. Have you ever bought a book on the strength of the trailer? Have you ever been put off by a trailer? Has a trailer ever encouraged you to track down a book or author? Post a comment and let me know.

5 Books Every Fantasy Writer Should Read

I’ve previously posted a list of five books every writer should read, irrespective of genre. But, once you’ve read them, I’ve got five more that will not only help fellow fantasy writers but are chock-full of inspiration! So, in no particular order:

Medieval Lives by Alan Ereira and Terry Jones.

The majority of fantasy literature is inspired by medieval England which, we know, was full of ignorant peasants in brown, noble knights saving damsels and maybe some royalty with absolute power. Thanks to Ereira and Jones, we know different. Peasants could be smart and colourful, knights were often thugs, and royalty wasn’t all that. An easy and entertaining read and your fantasy world will feel more real for it.

Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson

One of my very favourite books. A veritable tome of folklore and superstition, every page is full of budding story ideas. Spring-heeled Jack, the Seven Maidens, King Arthur, the Swan Knight, mermaids, there’s just so much crammed in it will keep you inspired for years.

Celtic Mythology by Geddes & Grosset

Mythology is always a plundering ground for authors, but all too often it’s the Norse, Egyptian or classical myths that are plundered. Celtic mythology is just as rich, and this book serves as a good introduction to give your fantasy world a unique flavour.

The Real Middle Earth by Brian Bates

Published at the height of The Lord of the Rings movie fever, this book tries a little too hard in places. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic exploration of dwarves, elves, dragons, ents and so on as they were seen by our Dark Age forbears.

The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Like the sound of Odin, Loki and Thor and want to know more? This is the place to go. A fantastic modern telling of the myths, along with an introductory essay on the Norse society and beliefs and capped by an appendix and index. I’ve never wanted or needed another resource on Norse myths, which I think says it all.

These are my suggestions but I’d love to hear yours. Let me know if there are any other books that ought to be in this list!

Cryo’s Dune: Unlikely Inspirations

I think nearly every writer can point to a single book, film, comic or somesuch and say “that’s why I’m a writer”. It might not be the only cause, but it’s a primary cause. The blame falls mostly at its feet. Most writers seem to point to classics in their genre, be it Lord of the Rings for fantasy writers, Star Wars for science fiction writers, or anything by Stephen King for horror writers. I must come clean, though; my major inspiration is rather unusual.

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a masterpiece of science fiction, a piece of work that you can return to again and again and find something new each time. Dune packs in the power and danger of religion, the role of the figurehead, the influence we have on our environment and vice versa, undermines the hero’s journey as he takes it, and much more. It’s an epic book and it’s been hugely influential; without it we probably wouldn’t have Star Wars. It’s been a huge literary influence on me and I think everything I write, no matter how unrelated, probably contains in it a nod to Dune.

The truth is, though, that my inspiration lies not with the book, but with a lacklustre spin-off: Cryo’s Dune. An adventure/real-time-strategy video game that would make a PS3 owner gag (check out this short video to see the early 90s cutting edge graphics!), it’s based loosely on the novel but fails to encompass the themes, the drama, even the distinctive authorial voice. The gameplay is linear and the player simply clicks what the game tells him to click when it tells him to click it. It is, in short, not a good game. But it managed to incorporate the magic of Dune and I encountered it before the novel, so the faces and voices are what I see and hear when I read it.

Cryo’s Dune is my guilty pleasure and I replay it on a regular basis. I’m also a little embarrassed to say that I own the game soundtrack and listen to it even more regularly.

But as much as you may judge me for that, the truth is it led me directly to the book, which in turn led me to the greater world of science fiction and genre fiction as a whole. And so I owe it a debt for every SF book I’ve read, every fantasy film I’ve seen and pretty much every story I’ve ever written. Cryo’s Dune is the cause for it all.

Do you have an unlikely inspiration for your writing? Let me know in the comments. Don’t be shy; I’m sure it’s not as odd as mine!