Author Interview with Charlotte Langtree

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Charlotte Langtree, author of The Shadow Queen featured in the Timeless 2 anthology.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember and telling stories since before I could write. I just love jumping into another world. I suppose that’s probably because I’ve always loved reading, too. However, I spent many years of my adult life dabbling in writing but letting my lack of confidence hold me back. When I became a mother, I realized I wanted my daughter to know that you should chase what makes you happy. I couldn’t bear to think of her one day being stuck in a career that made her unhappy, as I had been. It’s not easy to chase your dreams but it’s so very important, and I knew that I had to be the one to show her that it’s the right thing to do. That’s the point when I started to take my writing more seriously, so I guess you could say that my daughter is my inspiration – in so many ways.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

For me, it’s always the characters who come first. My work explores and focuses on emotion, so it’s right for me that a character is ‘born’ before their story. I might have only the vaguest idea of the theme for the story but, once I know my character, it always falls into place around them.

3. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I don’t know if it’s really a quirk, but I write whenever and wherever I can. As a busy mama I have to squeeze my work into short snippets of time. I’ve jotted sentences down on my phone during night time car rides (obviously I’m not the one driving!), carry a small notebook with me wherever I go in case inspiration strikes, and have written some of my best work with my little one asleep on me. If I get to sit at my laptop in the morning, I have a cup of coffee. At the minute I’m enjoying a lovely Christmas-flavored coffee. However, if I’m at my laptop in the evening I need a strong cup of Yorkshire tea (often more than one).

4. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I have almost completed my first poetry collection, which is a real passion-project that examines concepts of love, memory, loss, and so many other emotions through the lens of my own eyes. I am also working on my first novel, which is book one of a fantasy trilogy. I’m in the editing stage at the moment, so obviously I’m drinking lots of coffee and pulling lots of grumpy faces! In all seriousness, I’m very excited about it and hopeful that I may have it finished in the new year. It follows the life of a young mage who’s forced to face up to the increasing prejudice tainting her world when her choices lead her down a difficult road. Why do the leaders of the four clans allow such violence against their people? What secrets have been buried in the long forgotten past, and how do they relate to the current segregation of magic? How far will a mother go to save her child when the growing darkness is turned against her unborn babe? I hope you all want to read more! Feel free to follow me on social media and I will definitely update my pages when there’s more news.

5. Who is your favorite author and why?

This is a really hard choice as it can often depend on my mood. Nick Harkaway wrote my desert island book. Jasper Fforde always makes me laugh. Robin Hobb says such important things about the world through her fantasy work. Cecilia Dart Thornton’s writing is heartbreakingly beautiful. There are also some fantastic indie authors out there. An impossible choice! If I’m forced to choose just one author, I have to say my favorite is David Eddings. Several of his books were read to me when I was six, to check they were appropriate for me to read, and I was given my own copies aged seven. I’ve read them at least once a year since. They are definite comfort reads; reading Eddings’ Belgariad series is a little like coming home. I love the way he builds characters, and I’m sure some of those lovable rogues helped to shape my own character.

6. If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

I would love to question Jasper Fforde. He has so many brilliant ideas and a wonderful way with words. I would ask what his process is when planning out a new story. The different ways of working really fascinate me, and I’m always looking out for tips to make my own writing process more organised. Included in that would be any tips on editing, which is the bane of my writing life. Secondly, I would ask for his advice on approaching agents and publishers. If I’m feeling deflated, I like to remind myself that his work was rejected 76 times before he found a publisher. Now, he’s incredibly successful as well as fantastically talented. I’m sure he could offer some useful tips in persistence! Lastly, I’d love to know how he comes up with ideas for his Thursday Next series (if you haven’t read those books, you really should!), with a cheeky extra question about what’s next for his most famous character.

7. What are you reading now?

I’m actually in the middle of two books, both of which I’ve read before. The reason for having two on the go is that I have one downstairs to grab if I have a spare few minutes, and another upstairs – I don’t get a lot of time to read with being a mummy, and I never know when opportunity will strike! My upstairs book is The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde. My downstairs book is The Goneaway World by Nick Harkaway. They are two of my favorite authors and I read everything they write.

8. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

These days I have very little time to do anything – I’m sure other parents can relate. I’m thoroughly sleep deprived and take every opportunity to go to bed early! I used to enjoy martial arts and dancing, and do intend to take both up again when I can.

9. What is the best part of your day?

Every moment with my little girl is magical. She is the absolute light of my life and can make any gloomy moment brighter. Nothing is ever boring when she’s around (even if you want it to be!) The phrase ‘pride and joy’ was just three words together until I had her; now it resonates.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Learn more at my website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Spooky Inspirations

Here are ideas on how to create a spooky novel!

I recommend the following books such as On Writing by Stephen King, On Writing Horror- the collection of essays by the Horror Writers Association, and Writing the Paranormal Novel- Techniques and Exercises by Steven Harper. These books go into real detail about the paranormal. Within this genre, there is more freedom to create what you want whether that be a sparkly vampire, toothy werewolf, or chain rattling ghost.

After you read these books, highlight the advice, and incorporate the advice into your writing. For a good story about a ghoul of choice to be believed, it must be believable and written well. All stories benefit from good writing. Be consistent about the traits, superpowers, or awesome abilities your monster has. We all know vampires hate garlic and sleep in coffins, but maybe a coffin-shaped bookcase could be their nesting habit during the daytime.

Read widely in your chosen genre. That will let you know what has already been written by other authors.

Buy a new set of highlighters, pens, white out, a binder, paper, and a fresh bag of coffee. Do what it takes to make you commit to the writing for the long haul.

Clean your writing/ office space. Light some sage and clean the energy to allow for the creative energies to flow unimpeded. Light a candle or incense. Play music that inspires you as you create your ghoul or axe-wielding maniac. Create a special playlist and soundtrack. Know your monster! Make it consistent and believable.

Keep a routine when you sit down to work on your story.

Reach into the deepest darkest part of your imagination. Free write a scene of confrontation between your protagonist and your monster. Or the monster is the protagonist? These days your demon or ghoul needs to be ORIGINAL. Everything in the paranormal novel has been done … or has it? That part is up to you. It must be original. If you are seeking more inspiration, read the paper. Clip and keep newspaper articles.
For example, I published a short story about pumpkins that can eat people. The vines can extend themselves and the pumpkins were toothy and bloodthirsty. Talk about a real twist on our favorite squashes!

But by allowing yourself to imagine, you may invent something that no one has done before. That is a huge advantage in the field of writing and publishing. Being original and true to your monster is extremely important. The world wants to read a story that has never been written before. They do not want thirty knockoffs of It or The Babaduk.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this. It might spark an idea or two and you would then be on your way to writing a gothic novel like Northanger Abbey or something like the Pit and the Pendulum by Poe.

Good Luck!

Villains: A Twisted Love Story

Villains. Most stories don’t make sense without them. They are needed to propel a story forward, by giving our hero someone to confront. Nothing will make your hero look even more heroic than a worthy opponent. Therefore, villains are quite important. And they need to be written well in order to give your story the grit that it deserves.

That is why motivation is a very key ingredient when creating a villain. Many times, writers will put in a lot of effort into creating their main characters or even their side characters, but they’ll come up short on the villain. Villains, while they are the bad guys, they still need to be more than just being bad – they need a motivation for being bad. 

So, what makes a good villain? Well, the easiest way to begin building your villain is to understand that villains are ordinary people who have experienced complicated pasts. And personally, what better motivation than love? Think about it – the stories that we enjoy most, the ones that resonate with us most, are the ones rooted in love. Love can be a very powerful motivator, not just for your hero, but also for your villain. While a hero’s motivation of love for a family member, a significant other, or a civilization usually yields good results, a villain’s has the opposite effects. But if you think about it, the best villains are the ones with relatable backstories that serve as motivation for their evil-doing. And who is more relatable than someone who is laying everything out on the line for someone or something that they deeply care about?

While you’re writing your story, be sure to pay special attention to your villain and give them a backstory that is relatable. Perhaps something along the lines of a twisted love. 

Creating a Soothing Writing Space

With the current trending news climate, many of us may be experiencing a little more time at home than normal. For writers, this is a golden opportunity to get through all the projects that we’ve started and been meaning to finish. Personally, I’m plotting out my Camp NaNoWriMo while also planning to finish two short stories and make some changes to an old manuscript that was submitted as my master’s thesis.

However, our quest for solitude might not be as easy as we think. A global pandemic might mean that we’re not alone in our own space. Children might be sent home from school, spouses may be working from home, a whole 20-pack stack of toilet paper may have moved into our office space, Netflix’s delightful programming might seem even more delightful – there’s plenty of possible distractions.

So, what can we do about these distractions in order to get the most out of Armageddon? Well, through trial and error I’ve come up with a couple ideas to create a calming writing area to get stuff done.

1) Turn Off or Limit Social Media

Social media is a great platform to market yourself as an author and promote your books, but it’s also a black hole of panic – especially when it comes to world affairs. While yes, the memes coming out of the thing are hilarious, there is also a lot of misplaced panic and misinformation being spread as well. Therefore, for your own mental health and focus, it’s a good idea to take a step back. Not worrying about the latest trending hashtag helps you get into a writing frame of mind: calm. In addition, it also helps you avoid that late night social media spiral that keeps you up and leaves you unrested and irritable the next day.

2) Take a Walk

Before you sit down to write, it doesn’t hurt to get out of the house for a few minutes and take a walk around the block – especially if you’re feeling a little cabin feverish. As a very cliché coffee shop writer, I’ve been finding myself having a difficult time not going to my favorite coffee shop with my laptop or a notebook to write. So, I’ve been doing my best to recreate the coffee shop setting at home. However, I’m not going to lie, the cabin fever has gotten to me a bit. That is why I’ve found that going on a short jaunt around the park across the street kind of helps to get those jitters out. Fresh air definitely helps. If you have a garden you don’t even need to go out for a walk you can just enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your backyard. It will help get you into a relaxed frame of mind where you can think about writing.

3) Recreate a Chill Space

Like I said in my previous point, I’m a writing cliché, I love to write in coffee shops come the weekend. However, since recent global events have left my part of the world on lockdown, I need to find alternative ways. So, in my quest to carve out a place of my own to write, I decided that since I couldn’t go to my coffee shop, I’d bring the coffee shop to me. That meant that I cleared a little nook at the dining room table where I lit a rose-scented candle, played a little café jazz music on a playlist, and brewed myself a cup of coffee. In these uncertain times, it’s basically all about the little joys in life. So, carving out a portion of paradise for yourself is just what you need in order to keep writing during this time. Whether it’s your living room couch, bedroom, kitchen counter, or elsewhere, pick a place in your home where you can set up a nice little nook for yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly like mine, but it should make you feel good and safe. So, that could entail putting yourself a vase of fresh flowers, setting out some yummy writing snacks, playing your favorite music, wrapping up in your coziest blanket – whatever relaxes you and inspires you to write.

Hope you’re all keeping well and staying safe! Happy writing!

Gothic Poetry

I like to write gothic poetry. Gothic poetry has a fascinating history, thanks to the writings of Tennyson and Thomas Gray. If you are a lover of the dark side, and enjoy music such as Inkubus Succubus and romantic poetic musings, then I hope this post inspires you to pen dark verse of your own.

Once I walked home past a cemetery on a  magical cold winter night. The chilling glow of the streetlight over the tombstones woke the muse in me. I went home and wrote a poem about what I saw that night.

Surround yourself in an environment that inspires you to write dark verse. I live in a city well-known for its dark spooky history. I visit my favorite cemetery, Mount Olivet, carrying a thermos, a journal, and my pen. Graveyard tours are offered in my hometown. Put away the laptop or phone for an hour or two. Grab a journal, a quill pen, and latte-and go!

Now, once you are comfortably seated in a cemetery, sipping your latte, open your senses to the environment. Hear the bird songs, the creaking tree boughs, see the crows – crows are always hanging around in a cemetery. I think it has something to do with them being messengers of the dead–if you believe in that. Write down your verses. Therefore, it’s great to use a journal rather than a tablet. You can be messier and more creative. It frees up your creative expression.

Observe the way the crows perch on tombstones, how old the tombstones are. I once found an abandoned bird’s nest in a cemetery. Notice the age of the trees, colorful leaves, or flowers at the foot of a grave. A moth flitting over the ground, birds pecking for seeds, crows screeching from the treetops. A crow nest lives in the cemetery in my neighborhood. The nest has been there a long time.

Once, I strolled through Mount Olivet. An apple tree grows inside and outside of the cemetery. A fallen apple lay on the ground. Dead carpenter ants rested on the apple- except for one carpenter ant that crawled over the rotted apple. It churned my stomach. I left.

The Titanic victims are buried there. A word of caution: remain grounded and centered while you are there. Take what you like and leave the bad energy behind.

The quiet of a cemetery can be relaxing. They are not dangerous places, but people should still use common sense. If you do want to write there, go during the day. Safety trumps all. Don’t disturb the graves or take anything that doesn’t belong to you.

This may hopefully lead you to create a poetry chapbook!