... Olga Godim
This book started developing in my head long ago, after I read Mercedes Lackey’s Magic Price. In the end of that book, the hero dies, heroically, of course. I dislike such endings, so I started fantasizing: what if he didn’t die? What if… One thing led to another, until my adopted hero transformed into someone else entirely, relocated to my imaginary country of Varelia, and acquired a wife and a daughter. Considering that in Lackey’s book he was gay, such a transformation was really drastic. But I couldn’t write about him – he was another writer’s character. So I changed his name, and his daughter became my heroine, Eriale – a young and very powerful magician.
Strangely, when I started thinking about Eriale’s adventures, they came to me backwards. First, I wrote a story about her, when she was about 30 years old. This story exists on my computer as the first draft of a novel. I’m going to revise it soon. Then I wanted to see how she started on her magic path – and Almost Adept got written. I’m working on two more novels about her.
I also have a couple of short stories about Eriale, both happening before Almost Adept. Both stories are available as freebies on my website.
2. If you were the ruler of the world, what laws would you make?
Oh, what a nice question. I would limit the size of any company to 50 employees, including CEOs. The exception would the public services, belonging to the government: medicine, police, education, transportation. This way, I’d eliminate corporations. All of them. I think they cause the majority of problems the western civilization faces now. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I want to write a sci-fi story incorporating this requirement of 50 employees and some company owners unhappy about such limitations.
3. Would you break a law to save a loved one?
Totally, but only if I knew I wouldn’t get caught. My heroes do it all the time. When my protagonist Eriale, a young magician journeying to another country, found her new friend in trouble, she broke the law spectacularly to help him out. She risked her life to save the lives of others, even though she didn’t know most of them. She only knew they needed her help. I hope I could be as courageous as she is.
4. Is there a message in your novels you want the readers to grasp?
This is an interesting question. When I started writing the series of books I’m working on, I didn’t intend to convey any message or preach or anything. I just wanted to tell stories, to entertain the readers with my heroes’ adventures. My novels are all high fantasy, so what kind of a message could there be for modern readers, right? But my characters express my world view. They think a bit like me. I suppose it’s inevitable, if a writer is true to herself. So now, when I look at the novels I have written, some published, some not, and some only in the first draft stage, I see a message coalescing, and it has to do with my disbelief in bureaucracy and my mistrust of people with power. What I say in each novel is: “Don’t accept unconditionally what the authorities, secular or religious, tell you. Think first. Doubt. Ask questions.” I guess my skeptical nature shows in my fiction, whether I wished it or not.
5. Who are your favourite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite fantasy writer is Sharon Shinn. I enjoy her lyrical and magical tales, a blend of fantasy and romance. Her stories are full of light, without the darkness that’s dominated fantasy novels in the past decade. I especially like her older Samaria series. In it, she writes about angels, and her concept of angels is unique in the genre. It has nothing to do with biblical angels and everything to do with the writer’s imagination. She created a charming race of angels in her stories, angels I believe in, despite my atheism. Her angels are arrogant and talented, decadent and dedicated to their duty, truly the people of contradictions. When I read Shinn’s books, my spirit soars. I want to write like she does.
She is one of very few writers I use as a self-teaching aid. Whenever I’m stumped in my own writing, I ask myself: how would Shinn handle such a conundrum? I open one of her books at random and page through a dialog or a narrative to see what she does. It often helps.
My favorite sci-fi writer is Lois McMaster Bujold. Her hero, Miles Vorkosigan, is unmatched in the genre. He is a genius at solving cosmic problems. His adventures are always original, his obstacles gargantuan, and his solutions frequently funny. I wish I could create a protagonist as memorable and engaging as he is.
And then, there is Terry Pratchett. His satirical fantasy is joy with teeth. I don’t want to write like him—I can’t; satire is not my style—but I’d like to show in my writing as many shades of gray in the human soul as he does.
6. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I have a favourite quote – my motto in writing:
“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
― William Feather
That would be my advice to any aspiring writer. Persevere. Don’t give up. If one route to publication doesn’t work out, try another. If nobody wants your novel, try to write for a newspaper or a magazine, even if they don’t pay. Blogs don’t count; your friends are already reading your blog. You need to find readership that don’t know you. You need to convince strangers that what you write could be interesting for them. And write, write, write.
A writer friend I met online once said: you can only consider yourself a professional writer after
you’ve written one million words or more. It’s true. An average novel is about 60,000 to 100,000 words. If I toss in all the writing and re-writing I’ve done for all the short stories and novels, plus my newspaper articles (I’ve been writing for a local newspaper since 2007), I’m somewhat over one million mark now. And I got two novels published.
Self-publishing doesn’t count either. Most self-published novels I’ve read are amateur and badly edited. I understand the urge of many first-time writers to get their beloved story in front of the readers. But writing is a long process, and you can’t skip the apprenticeship phase. Skills come from years of practice, like in music. Of course there are exceptions, but they only underscore the rule: instant gratification doesn’t exist for writers. As a rule, your first novel isn’t good. My first novel was terrible. It’s still hidden in the bowels of my computer. It will never be published, although I have revised it at least ten times. It was my school. Your first novel is your school. Don’t publish it. Learn from it and move on.
7. How did you choose your genre?
High fantasy? I choose it because no research is required. Well, that’s a bit of a joke, but it’s the truth too. I write fantasy because I can make out a world and all the rules in it, and nobody can say that I’ve made a mistake. It’s my world after all. Furthermore, fantasy allows me to escape reality. That’s why I read fantasy and that’s why I write fantasy – escapism pure and simple. I imagine my heroes talented and brave, with lots of friends and lots of choices. I make them able and smart. You read about them and you forget (I hope), if even for an hour, that you need dentures you can’t afford, that your bills are overdue, that your boss is an asshole, that your mom is eighty and getting weaker every day, and you’re helplessly watching her slip away. If I can give you this tiny escape from your worries, then I’ve done my job as a writer.
8. What’s next for you?
I have another fantasy novel with Champagne books. It’s in the editing process now and is due out in May 2014. It’s part of the same series as Almost Adept but about a different hero. The series is united by the same world, not the characters.
I’m also working on a sequel to Almost Adept. In the new story, my heroine Eriale finds herself in a foreign kingdom, where female magic is anathema. The acolytes of the local god, all men, confine female witches to a ‘nunnery’, where they suck the magic out of the women with a special spell. Later, they use that magic for their own purposes.
Eriale is in this kingdom in secret, at the request of her queen. She is not in danger from the local god or his monks, but she is very angry at the plight of the local witches. Should she interfere? Try to help the poor, abused witches? Or should she maintain her incognito status, complete her assignment for the queen, and leave? If she interferes, she might cause a diplomatic incident, maybe even a war, between the two kingdoms. If she does nothing, the imprisoned witches will continue to suffer. The choice she faces isn’t nice or easy.
9. How do you handle working with an editor without letting pride get in the way?
I guess it depends on an editor. I’ve been lucky with Champagne to get Nikki Andrews as my editor. She is perfect as an editor: utterly professional, with great knowledge of English, and at the same time very diplomatic. She always states her objections and suggestions in a way that is clear and convincing. She is open to ‘negotiations’ too, when I feel strongly about something. Never once she bruised my ego, and the novel is definitely better because of her. Thank you, Nikki.
10. What would YOU like the reader to know about your book or about you in general?
I became a writer pretty late in life. By education, I’m a computer programmer. I worked with computers for over two decades. I’m also a daydreamer. Since I remember myself, I always made up stories and played them in my head, like a one-woman theatre, but I never told anyone about my daydreams. They were my secret, and I didn’t write them down. To tell the truth, I was a bit embarrassed, afraid of ridicule. I was a professional woman, a single mom with two children. I never thought I could be a writer but I couldn’t get rid of my daydreams. Sometimes, I immersed in my dream world so completely that my heroes and heroines felt more alive and precious than the living people around me.
Then, in 2002, I got seriously ill. During my long recovery, my daydreams became more persistent. They swarmed me, they wanted to be told. So I decided to be brave, stop resisting, and at last let my daydreams out. I started writing a story, the first writing I did since high school. I didn’t know if it was a short story, a novella, or a novel. I didn’t know anything about writing or publishing. I just wanted to write. I still do. My stories are always with me, evolving, transforming, striving to get out—into a computer file or into a book.
Writing liberates me. It allows me to escape the everyday routine with its inevitable money problems, pollution, illnesses and the like. When I dive into my imaginary world, with its magic and its courageous and beautiful heroes, I feel happy. I’m becoming one of them—a princess magician or a crafty mercenary or a testy dragon. Anything is possible in the world that I have created. Of course I want to be there.
11. What question would you most like someone to ask you? And what would be your answer?
The question would be: do you use a pen name? The answer is: yes.
I use a pen name for fiction – Olga Godim. I’m a journalist as well as a fiction writer, and all my newspaper articles have a different byline. When I started submitting my first fantasy stories to magazines, I was still working at my computer job and I felt slightly embarrassed by my fantastic tales. Women of my age and profession didn’t entertain themselves with tales of sword and magic. Or so I thought. So I decided to use a pseudonym. Olga is my first name, and Godim was my father’s first name. He passed away before I published my first piece, before I even started thinking about writing, but I wanted him to be a part of my writing life, so I chose his name as my nom de plume. Now, he’s always with me, a witness to my successes and failures as a writer.
12. Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or is it all imagination?
Not in my fantasy novels, but I have another, mainstream novel Lost and Found in Russia, published last year. It’s a women’s fiction about mothers and daughters, and some of it is based on my personal experience.
When I was young and poor, I often thought: what if someone showed up at my door and said that I had been switched at birth, and my birth family was rich. And they’re looking for me. What would I do? What would my mother do? And – here was the tricky question – what would my other mother do? Would she want and love me as much as the mother who raised me? From that daydream sprouted the idea for one half of the book – the story of a mother who discovers after 34 years that her daughter was switched at birth, by mistake.
The second part of the novel unfolded in my mind after I met an amazing woman Irina in Montreal. An immigrant from Russia, like my protagonist, Irina came to Canada with nothing and accomplished much. I was inspired by her optimism and determination. She told me about her life and her struggles to find her place in a new country. Awed by her courage, her indomitable spirit, and her lovely soul, I adopted her as a model for my heroine. After my meeting with Irina, the novel practically wrote itself.
For the seventeen-year-old mage Eriale, magic is a source of joy, and she often uses magic to solve problems. Unfortunately, such solutions sometimes get out of hand. Her latest magical caper was a disaster, so she has to leave home in a hurry but she decides to turn her shameful fleeing into a quest to prove her Adept potential. She expects a glittering foreign escapade but ends up in Grumesh, the land rife with treachery and violence. A local courier Kealan becomes her only friend and ally. Together, they survive an explosion, a treacherous incarceration, and a daring escape. Sparks of interest ignite between them, but before Eriale can explore her attraction to Kealan, she discovers blood magic ruining amok in the city. Her priorities must change. As an aspiring Adept, she is duty-bound to find and eliminate the blood mage of Grumesh. She can’t allow her budding romance to distract her, or the blood magic will taint the entire land. No matter the cost—her life or her heart—she can’t let the vile mage win.
Olga is a writer from Vancouver, Canada. When she doesn’t work on her fiction, she writes for a local newspaper—articles about art and culture—and collects toy monkeys. She has over 300 monkey figurines in her collection. Her published fiction works to date include two novels and 19 short stories. Most of her fiction is fantasy: swords, magic, and talking squirrels. You can read some of her short stories free on her website.
Worlds of the Imagination: http://worldsoftheimagination.wordpress.com/