A. Wrighton is a gifted Los Angeles based writer with dragons on the brain. Funny, charming, and always willing to answer questions, she sat down with Victoria of the Geek Girl Project to discuss her skills as a builder of worlds and the first book in her fantasy series Dragonics & Runics, Defiance.
GGP: What was your inspiration for the Rogues in your novel? What about Kalyna?
A. Wrighton: The Rogues as a collective were inspired by the French Resistance and the POW resistances during World War II – they faced these crazy odds, had to hide, and rarely succeeded in major victories. Add to that the guerrilla warfare tactics the Colonial Militia used during the Revolutionary War, and I had a super solid foundation for the Rogues as a movement.
For the individual Rogues, each lead Rogue had their own source of inspiration – some in history, others from situations and people I have come across in life. As the series continues, you’ll see each Rogue shape up into a unique identity that is an integral part of the whole, and you’ll come to realize what they have – they can’t do this without each other. As much as I would love to tell you each Rogues’ historical inspiration(s), I can’t without spoiling the series so this writer’s lips are sealed… Sorry!
Kalyna, Kalyna, Kalyna. Where to start with her, right? Okay, so she’s stubborn, impulsive, passionate, and a bit manic when threatened. Who does that remind you of? I like to think that Kalyna has a bit of every new adult drop-kicked into the real world and struggling to find their way through without losing themselves. As far as actual people go, Kalyna isn’t based on anyone, but for her looks I often find myself skimming pictures of Deborah Ann Woll. I’d always been a True Blood fan, but had fallen off from religious watching after Season Two. Then, I’m sitting there editing one night and she comes on for an interview. I looked at my dogs – my stoic editing companions – and said, “Holy gavasti… that’s Kalyna.”
GGP: Speaking of which, you have come up with some pretty creative swearing. Bretzing, Udlast, Gavasti. What caused you to create your own swearing and is it part of any particular language you mention in the book?
A. Wrighton: The creative swearing has a few reasons behind it. First, I wanted the story to be accessible and younger-kid friendly. I get that in today’s world, twelve year olds are swearing a colorful rainbow of words that I didn’t dare utter until sixteen (okay, okay, fifteen). But, that doesn’t mean books should. Keeping those younger readers in mind, and respecting those whose age-acquired wisdom are not partial to swearing either, I developed slang and swear words that weren’t technically cussing.
The second reason – and hopefully as logical – was that I wanted to really immerse the readers in the Rogues’ world. So often fantasy books fall flat at totally immersing the reader in their new worlds, and I didn’t want that to happen. They say that language immersion works best for such situations and hopefully, they’re right. The third reason is purely a selfish one and I can admit to that. I wanted to pay tribute to some of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy authors out there who, as pioneers in their genre, cranked out full-bodied languages or entire slang dictionaries. Battlestar Galactica definitely comes to mind.
That said, bretz and gavasti are part of the common language in the world of the Dragonics & Runics series. They stem from earlier versions of their common language (like Modern English stems from Middle English and beyond) that people just can’t let go of. The whole Udlast bit is actually their version/concept of Hell – with a double meaning. There is an actual ice-covered continent in the south called Udlast where prisoners are sent to suffer and no one ever visits. That continent, once free of ice, runs throughout the world’s mythology and is rumored to have been the site of one deity’s death. So, when the characters are mentioning Udlast – they usually mean it one of two ways. Which way you think they mean it though, is entirely up for interpretation.
GGP: Your worlds are incredibly rich and detailed. Tell us a bit about your world creation process and how you capture it throughout your writing?
A. Wrighton: Thank you, so, so, so very much. That means a lot to me because it means that the hours and hours of prep and research went into creating the world of the Dragonics & Runics series paid off. And no, I am not exaggerating. A 2 inch binder overflowing with notes, images, explanations, and descriptions exists as the series bible, which I simply refer to as, “my precious.”
I am an adamant follower of world-building legends like Tolkien, Card, McCaffrey, and Burroughs, so when I started building my own world, I read up on anything they had to say on the matter. Then, I dug in.
Starting from the ground up, I constructed a new world rooted with elements from our world that would allow for an easy transition and reading experience for readers. For every unique aspect or concept in the world, I have at least a paragraph of notes that allow me to describe it in every sense, know of its purpose and significance, and know its history. That information may never make it into the books, but it is there for me so I can write a vivid, colorful world.
GGP: You have opted to self publish. What are your reasons for doing so?
A. Wrighton: I actually had gone through the process of writing query letters for about eleven agents (to start) and even had them in envelopes ready to go. I’d done my research, I’d followed what my writing education and training prescribed, and I was set to be rejected until accepted. But, then I stared at the stack for a day and had a heart to heart talk with myself. In my day job, I have the pleasure of working with agents in a capacity other than literary ventures, but it’s basically the same concept. And the more I thought about it, I wasn’t happy with the prospect.
Agents and managers are wonderful assets, but for me – just starting out and being OCD about creative control – I realized it was not the choice for me. Add to that the statistic that, in many cases, unless a well-established author, you are left doing a lot of the heavy marketing/lifting yourself, and I was unsold from that traditional publishing route.
Of course, there might come a time when that could change, but for now, I’d rather retain creative control and dig deep into the entire process of being a published author. Sure, it’s about 100 times more work, but to me it is well worth it. Add to my heart-to-heart that self-publishing has become more fluid than ever (a good and a bad thing) and is easy to maneuver, and I knew indie publishing was for me.
GGP: Do you write daily?
A. Wrighton: Yes, even if it is just 200 words. Which, by the way, anyone can write in less than 10 minutes. Usually I write more, but some days I focus on the marketing side, or the editing/rewriting side, or even the drafting side. I’m actually known to manically scribble on receipts or text myself anything that comes to mind for my stories.
GGP: Do you have any particular habits or special rituals for when you write?
A. Wrighton: I usually have a documentary relevant to the story in some way playing in the background, which I then, happily, tune out. I often write in coffee shops if my mind needs a refreshing change and once there, my drink of choice is some version of a reduced sugar latte.
For certain scenes, I have music that really triggers inspiration so I’ll listen to those songs and write until I get it down as I want it. I have since committed almost every Rise Against, Muse, Frank Turner, and Lindsey Stirling song to my memory thanks to the D&R Series.
For rewriting & editing, I always read aloud and work on paper. Sometimes, I bug actor friends to do a reading if dialogue isn’t working. And I always, always, always, use a colorful pen. Red doesn’t always do it for me – so I cherish my purple and turquoise pens.
GGP: What prompted you to start writing?
A. Wrighton: I think my love of reading did. I honestly don’t remember, it was so long ago. I know that I wrote my first “story” around the time I was four or five (with help) and then illustrated it accordingly. It was about a giraffe I think – I still have it in storage.
My mom was ever-encouraging and I always had stories to tell. I just loved creating worlds and characters and then sharing them with my friends. The rush of telling a story was addicting and, as I got older, my passion for it become more intense. So I did what any story-obsessed soul would do – I started reading books on writing.
GGP: The ending of your book seemed to have a clear opening for a sequel. When can your readers hope to see the next installment of the saga?
A. Wrighton: Definitely! Allegiance: Dragonics & Runics Part II is due for release in August and as of right now, it’s right on schedule. So, keep an eye out for it soon!
GGP: Do you have a particular number of books in the series planned out?
A. Wrighton: The series stands at four books – Defiance, Allegiance, Alliance & Vengeance. Each book continues right where the other left off, following the Rogues and their Council counterparts. The third book is slotted to be released around fall and the final book around winter.
There has been quite a bit of pressure from readers to know more about the founders of the Resistance and how Solera got into the mess it is when the series begins, so there is a chance that the the origin of the Rogues and the Council will come to light in its own story.
GGP: You do attend conventions and Renaissance Faires. What have your experiences been since the release of your book?
A. Wrighton: I do and I love every minute of it. My experiences have all been, thankfully, wonderful. There is something magical in today’s techno-hyped world where you can actual meet and talk with your readers face to face. I got to learn about what they loved to read, what they wished they’d written, and what their cat’s name was. It really gave me a better sense of who my audience was and who I am as a writer.
My two favorite moments would be when a reader at the Phoenix Comicon bought the book on Day 1, and on Day 2 came running back to my booth and – at a hundred miles a minute – explained that he read my book that night, couldn’t put it down, had to have coffee to keep going, and would really like a picture with me. I think I stared blankly for a bit until my business manager nudged me back to reality. It was a great picture, if I do say so myself.
The other fave moment would be when two fairies stalked me at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. They would glide about as I walked and would either hide or freeze whenever I turned around. They did it for a good twenty minutes before I turned and threatened to sick dragons on them. One squealed excitedly, the other smiled and winked and then the both flitted off.
It’s moments like these that make me return to events like comicons and renfaires and encourage fellow writers to do the same (or at least something similar). These events are just… so bretzing awesome.
A. Wrighton’s novel Defiance: Dragonics & Runics is available from Amazon, Audible, Barnes and Noble, Itunes, and even for the Kobo and Sony ebook platforms. You can follow all of the adventures of the Rogues on www.defythecouncil.com or A. Wrighton directly on www.awrighton.com. All cover art in the book series is by the talented Anabel Martinez.