Monday, July 2, 2012

Interview with urban fantasy author Angela Wallace about her "Dreamwalker" and "Elemental Magic" books...

It’s going to be another great interview, because today we have with us my friend Angela Wallace. For those of you who don’t know, she’s the author of the popular “Elemental Magic” series, and today is here to talk about her entirely new release: “Dreamwalker.” I’m excited to learn more about it.

Tim Greaton: I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you appearing here in the forum, Angela. We’ve been friends for a while, but I’m just now learning that you’re not always a hard-working novelist. There are actually times when you act a little crazy. Would you tell us about that?

Angela Wallace:  When I’m not writing, I work as a sign language interpreter at a couple colleges.  I go into the classroom where I interpret the teacher’s lectures and any interaction between the Deaf student and other people.  The language aspect is a lot of fun, and when I work with eccentric teachers, I get to be silly and funny myself (because interpreting isn’t just about words, but manner and tone).  That’s the only place you’ll see me act goofy.  I also love learning all these subjects when I’m not the one doing the homework.

Tim Greaton: I once heard you mention a great interpretation story about a squirrel. Do you remember the one I mean?

Angela Wallace:  I do. It actually happened during my interpreter training program the semester before graduation.  Our class was doing a series of presentations on the Seven Ancient Wonders, and while some students practiced English speaking delivery, some practiced interpreting the presentations.  Interpreters also work in teams, so we were practicing how to do that as well.  The leftover students divided themselves into the “audience,” some with over the head earmuffs that played white noise so they could be “deaf.”

I was interpreting a presentation on the statue of Zeus.  I fell a little behind on the description and missed what perched on top of his staff, so I looked to my team to feed me what I missed.  She threw a sign at me, and even though I had no idea what she meant, I copied it anyway.  After all, if I spent too much time thinking about it, I would lose the rest of the speech.  So at the end, the student playing the “deaf audience” debriefed with us and asked, “What do you mean there was a squirrel on top of the statue?”

Isn’t that an image!  The great god Zeus with a pet squirrel.  We were all in hysterics for a long time after that, and at graduation my team drew us all copies of that statue with a squirrel on top.  (Unlike me, she’s a real artist.)  There are lots of amusing stories of “lost in translation” when you’re an interpreter.

Tim Greaton: Now you’ve got us curious about the artist statement, so I’m hoping you’ll clarify. And, while we’re at it, would you also tell us about your “unusual” hobby. 

Angela Wallace:  I like to draw My Little Ponies.  It started as a way to decompress during my graduate level study, but then it was just fun.  I’m not a true artist; I can’t draw squat from my head, but I’m pretty good at eyeballing dimensions and forging figures from other pictures.  Of course, I add my own touch with the colors (that’s the best part!).  I even made a couple custom designs to go with my books.

As for the other hobby, I took up ballroom dancing a couple months ago.  I can’t afford lessons yet, though it’s on my “When I’m a best-selling author” list, but I’m picking up quite a bit at the social parties.  It’s a blast, and you can be sure ballroom dancing will work its way into my future books.

Tim Greaton: We writers are always juggling a combination of old and new projects. You recently decided that older projects might be a little too much work. I wonder how you figured that out so easily, when the rest of us continue wrestling with dusty manuscripts long after it probably makes sense.  

Angela Wallace:  My latest release was an old project I pulled out.  I originally wrote it seven years ago, and it was not up to par with my current works.  I’ve evolved quite a bit as a writer, not just in craft, but also style and voice.  I rewrote everything from scratch.  So the experience taught me not to publish any other back listed items.  It’s almost harder than writing something new.  Besides, I just have a few short stories, a novella, and an epic fantasy novel that definitely shouldn’t be let out of its cage.  I’m more excited about my current projects.

Tim Greaton: What kind of a method do you use to write your novels, and has it changed over the years?

Angela Wallace:  I have become a plotter over the course of my career.  I find that if I work out everything in an outline first, I can spot plot holes quicker and they’re easier to fix.  People rave about programs like Scrivner, but I absolutely must use pen and paper.  I cannot focus when it comes to brainstorming unless I’ve got an actual notebook.  And I use colored pens to organize things, which is good, because my scribbles often go into the margins, sideways, diagonal.  Things get crossed out, then rewritten.  Sometimes I need to use symbols to link things on opposite ends of the paper.  A year after finishing Elemental Magic, I looked at my notes again, and couldn’t make sense of them!

Tim Greaton: You and I share an affinity for beta readers, Angela. Who reads your early drafts, and how much do you rely on their opinions before finishing a project?

Angela Wallace:  My mom reads my very first draft.  It’s sad sometimes because she misses out on the polished final version, but she’s my unconditional fan.  On occasion she’ll point something out that should be changed, but I work with critique partners on the heavy stuff: characterization, clarity, and my current biggest weakness, lack of description.  I trust my instincts in the areas I know are my strengths, and am working hard to internalize concepts and strategies for the areas that are weaknesses.  I don’t think I would ever not work with someone before publishing.  The collaborative learning experience is too valuable.

Tim Greaton: I’m always excited to talk about successful writers past and present because they always have so much to teach us. I heard a particular author strongly influenced your current project. Could you tell us about her?

Angela Wallace:  I’m modeling the structure of my “Elemental Magic” series after Kelly Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series.  I loved how she moved about in the books to different main characters.  Secondary characters in early books became main protagonists, and later books even went back to the original ones.  It gave variety, but the characters were also all linked through association, so your favorites would pop up later, even if it wasn’t their story.

Tim Greaton: A lot of us have been anxiously awaiting your latest release “Dreamwalker.” Could you please, please tell us about it?

Angela Wallace:  “Dreamwalker” is a fantasy novella that just came out (June 30th).  It’s about an ex-soldier with the unique ability to dreamwalk.  She comes out of retirement when she discovers she’s not alone in this skill after all, and a dream assassin is threatening her country.

“Two dreamwalkers: one a devout soldier, the other a rogue assassin.  Last one standing wins.”

Tim Greaton: Will there be sequels or other stories loosely connected to this one?

Angela Wallace:  I didn’t plan on sequels though I have a couple ideas, including a next generation dreamwalker type of thing, and of course the title possibilities are fun!  However, my “Elemental Magic” series is my main focus and priority, as my goal is to release one every six months.  But since “Dreamwalker” is a novella, it’s possible I could fit one in between.

Tim Greaton: “Dreamwalker” sounds spectacular, though I think it would have been tough to write about a dream reality inside of a standard reality. For you, something else was more of a challenge. What was that?  

Angela Wallace:  It was the descriptions, especially of buildings.  Since this is a fantasy world, my critique partner kept asking what the building structures looked like to get a sense of the society.  Well, architecture is not my strong suit; I don’t even know what most things are called!  So looking them up on Google wasn’t easy, either, when I didn’t know what search term to put in.

Tim Greaton: Given that descriptive difficulty, what made you need to write this particular story?

Angela Wallace:  I grew up devouring high fantasy books, but somewhere along the way, I got sucked into urban fantasy, and haven’t really gone back.  High fantasy has become a little...stuffy, perhaps, language-wise.  I love sarcasm and snark.  So I wrote “Dreamwalker” with a very modern tone.  The dialogue is casual, and there are even a few Americanisms in it.  I wanted to make this story appealing to readers who may not like high fantasy because of its language style.  It might throw some people off, but hopefully it will reach more.

Tim Greaton: A little off topic, Angela, you told me someone recently stumbled across the perfect gift for you. Could you tell us what that is?

Hah!  My best friend found this awesome magnet (one of those Hallmark types), and it really does sum me up perfectly. Might even put it in my obituary. It says:

“She dreamt of mermaids and motorcycles and meeting a man who can dance.”

Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.

Angela Wallace:  Blog:
Book page with links to various online stores:

Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with me today, Angela. I’ve been seeing your “Elemental Magic” sales steadily rising and was hoping to get you on the forum before the New York Times and USA Today took up all your interview time.

Angela Wallace:  Thanks for having me here!  It was fun hanging out and sharing all my quirks. Everyone can feel free to look me up anytime. I love connecting with readers!  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angela and Tim. I definitely learned some new things about you, Angela. Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself with us.