Patrick Carr interviews Janet Ursel

Patrick W. Carr, the author of the Staff and the Sword series, and the upcoming Darkwater Saga interviews Janet Ursel, whose Christian fantasy Disenchanted just released today. Follow along in the comments and feel free to chime in. One copy of Disenchanted will be awarded to a commenter drawn at random. Squarespace keeps no record of the email of commenters, so to be eligible for a prize, either leave your email address (in spambot-proof format: yourname at whatever dot com) or safer still, subscribe to the comments by email, just above the comment box to the right.

Janet Ursel

Janet Ursel

Patrick W. Carr

Patrick W. Carr

Disenchanted links:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Goodreads

Note: I've edited this post to move the comments into the body of the post for easier reading. Some very light editing happened, but the originals are still in the comment trail.

Patrick's first question:
When interviewed about the success of “The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien said the smartest thing he did was to begin with a map. The map for your work “Disenchanted” appears to have more than just casual thought behind it. How did you arrive at your place names and did your map dictate your story or vice-versa?

Janet Ursel:
Hi Patrick! You're right, I did have a map going very soon. I had decided to put my story in an alternate Earth, so I got to borrow real geography. Next, I needed a nice, dry cave where a book would not rot. Dead Sea scrolls anyone? So that made the action take place in the Levant. I let my settlers move north to a nicer climate, and pored over a map of England to find suitable place names when I didn't have one in mind already. The actual original map was a messy printout with a bunch of skinny, red, almost illegible lines on it. There's a reason I thanked Cristina for her miraculous skills in the Acknowledgments. ;o)

Patrick Carr:
We talked a bit on facebook about our favorite authors and I have to admit to being a little giddy when I saw you mention Guy Gavriel Kay. What kind of influence has his style (I would call it literary) had on your writing? Is there anyone out there you try to emulate?

Janet Ursel:
I would call it literary too. ;o) I don't know that he's influenced me directly, but when I'm in active writing mode, I try to read really, really good authors in the hope that I will catch something by osmosis. As for GGK, I like his clarity of style and elegance of expression, and I do aim for those things as much as I can. I also try to emulate Ursula Le Guin, and a good number of non-fantasy authors.

Earl Blacklock:
I know you are planning a subsequent work(s) drawing from these characters. The parts of this book I most enjoyed were the parts where we saw the story from the perspective of other characters, especially the parts that were seen from Peter's perspective. I hope that we will hear Catherine's story, then Peter's, since you've given us a taste of how much depth belongs to those characters.

Janet Ursel:
Catherine will be the central character in the sequel. Peter will probably get to shine in #3, if I ever get that far! LOL!

Amanda Gawthorpe:
You'll get that far ;) I want more Owen!

Janet Ursel:
LOL! Okay Amanda, tell me. What is it about Owen that you love so much?

Janet Ursel:
Amanda is my fabulous, psychopathic editor, in case anyone is wondering.

Amanda Gawthorpe:
The beard. And his snarky streak. And his loyalty.

Nadine Brandes:
Ooh, I want more Owen, too! He was wonderful. Even though we saw just a little of him, we saw a lot of his character. I think I'd want to be his friend in real life.

Janet Ursel:
This is true. It's hard to imagine a better friend than Owen. I had fun letting the guys hang out together. Sometimes having had four sons comes in handy... Amanda, you'll be happy to know that ALL FOUR have beards.

Patrick Carr:
I couldn’t help but notice that in addition to our shared admiration for Guy Kay’s writing, you and have both come to the world of publishing a bit later in life. How do you think your greater experience has influenced your story? Notice that I automatically assume our greater age is an advantage?

Janet Ursel:
As well you should! LOL! I have lived more, read more, suffered more, made a fool of myself more, learned how much I don't know... I think all of that helps, to be quite honest. I wanted to write even before I was 20, but had a deep feeling that I didn't know enough to do it. And then life got very, very busy for a long time. Once the youngest was through high school, and it was clear my health wasn't going to allow me to return to teaching, I threw myself into writing.

Earl Blacklock:
Well, if you're ever looking for a final proof editor, I'd be happy to get an early look-see.  Now how do I get 10 personally autographed copies?

Janet Ursel:
You wait until I get my copies and ask again... LOL! And I'll put you on my list of beta readers if you like. If you would like to get involved with proofreading for Vox Dei or Booktrope, go to the Booktrope site and apply. They are looking for people.

Patrick Carr:
Ha! Chalk up something else we have in common; teaching. The little scamps can be quite a handful. I also noticed that you have 5 children. Wow. I usually win that contest with 4. Do you find yourself using your children's likeness or personality for your characters?

Janet Ursel:
No, not really. I do sometimes use real people to inspire me for a character, but the character always stubbornly insists on becoming someone else. Besides, I would prefer to let all the autobiographical elements come out subconsciously so I can deny them. So far, I don't think I've even tried shoe-horning any of my kids (no longer kids) into a story. But never say never.

Janet Ursel:
I mostly taught adults or at Cegeps in Quebec, which is a level of schooling that exists nowhere else between high school (which ends earlier) and university (which starts later). So late teens, early twenties. Loved teaching that age group, but just didn't have the physical stamina for it.

Patrick Carr:
Do you keep an electronic scrapbook with images for your main characters? If so, could we get a peek at a couple? I'm curious to see what Blayn and Edgar look like. And speaking of Edgar, it's a lot of fun when you get to hate the bad guy. From the first, you did a great job of making him smarmy.

Janet Ursel:
I'm not very faithful in keeping pictures like that, Patrick. I did try for a while and I think they're still on my hard drive. Blayn looks, in my mind, like Ioan Gruffud (the star of the movie Amazing Grace). I've never tried pasting links in the comments, let's see how that goes: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0344435/
Edgar I've never found a picture for. I should probably make an effort...

Patrick Carr:
Okay, Janet. We're a bit over halfway through our interview and there are some questions I really want to ask. Brace yourself. :-)
Now that “Disenchanted” is released and on the shelves, what did you enjoy most and least about your path to publication?

Janet Ursel:
Oh my. What did I enjoy most? I think getting to know my team at Vox Dei. Writing is so solitary, and having a group of people who were excited about my writing and who were actively encouraging me was absolutely wonderful. It was so strange to have people (other than family) publicly cheering for me I sometimes got a little moist in the eyes. Getting the acceptance email wasn't bad either, although I was so shocked I'm not sure I felt much LOL!
The worst thing? Well, in my case, my health took a nosedive for a number of years and I was too exhausted to even write. That was no fun. Then when I was back on my feet, I decided Christian fantasy was too hard to sell, so I started on something entirely different. And then DISENCHANTED got accepted after all, so I had to pick up the sequel which was only half-written and try to get back into it after several years. That's also been tough. Next week I guess I will really throw myself into that again and try to make faster progress. Now that my head's been in Coventree for several months, it should be easier.

Patrick Carr:
Wow. I can't imagine what it must be like to struggle with health issues while you're trying to write. I have enough trouble just making myself show up every day when I'm feeling well. Is there a particular line in your book that you wish you could highlight for your readers and say “Hey! Read this, this line right here, because it’s that important to me!”?

Janet Ursel:
Oh man, you ask tough questions! Perhaps this paragraph, from Blayn's experience on the beach at Denham:
And yet he felt with a sudden thrill deep in his gut that the vastness was not empty at all. It was full, full of a wild, exultant joy that swept him up and rolled him through the air, singing wordlessly to him of sun and stars and sea, of birds and storms and mountains, till his whole being vibrated with the majesty of the music and his body collapsed on the sand below, weeping with a pain sweeter than any joy he had ever known.

Patrick Carr:
Seriously, I can see why you chose that. Awesome stuff. I think the most wonderful and humbling thing about getting published is the realization that people are going to have an incredible array of unique experiences from your book. However, what common theme or message do you want your readers to share from "Disenchanted?"

Janet Ursel:
To push through to find the truth and to remain faithful to it no matter what the cost. Truth is not cheap, it is not easy, it is not a formula. And it has a face...

Patrick Carr:
Well put! Thanks for a great interview, Janet and congratulations again on your success!!
Hopefully you have time to get to this one, Janet. When can we expect the sequel to "Disenchanted" and what will it be called?

Janet Ursel:
I don't know and I don't know! Next year some time, hopefully in the spring. The title is making me tear my hair out. I don't have one yet, and the three or four working titles I've come up with are pathetic!
Thank you so much for your wonderful questions, Patrick! Now it will be your turn to be in the hot seat!