Author Interview with R.L. Davennor

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Fairytale Dragons Author R.L. Davennor.

1. What inspired you to start writing?

I was a reader first and foremost. After tearing through books in grade school and reading every novel in my favorite genre (fantasy), I still couldn’t get enough, and another problem arose: I was now getting in trouble for reading while my teachers were talking. The solution most beneficial to all was to begin writing my own! Writing during class looked an awful lot like note-taking, and it wasn’t long before I began filling entire notebooks with my stories (which I still have to this day). From then on, I was hooked.

2. How do you handle writer’s block?

This isn’t to sound high and mighty, but I truly don’t experience writer’s block now that I’m in the habit of writing something every single day, whether I’m in the mood or not! If I am struggling with a particular passage, I have a few things I do to help flex my writing muscles. Good old-fashioned coffee is at the top of that list, as is putting on some good mood music. If that still doesn’t help, I sometimes need to just accept that the passage I set out to write isn’t getting done today, but instead of quitting entirely, I move on to a section that is more enjoyable or switch to a different project, making a note of what I was struggling with to help me whenever I’m ready to return to the problem section.

3. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Currently, it’s balancing writing and all things author with my day job and other responsibilities. I live alone and work full-time to support myself, so on days I work I’m left absolutely exhausted by the time I get home, and often find that I’m equally as busy on my days off running errands and cleaning. Though it’s hard, I’m pushing through with the goal to one day make writing my job!

4. Which of your books were the most enjoyable to write?

At the time of this interview, I only have one published work: Lyres, Legends, and Lullabies, which is more of a showcase of music I’ve composed rather than a cohesive story. I have two other fantasy trilogies in the works: a dark fantasy epic titled The Blood of the Covenant Trilogy, and a pirate adventure romance titled The Godsworn Trilogy. Though I consider the former my passion project and it’s been in the works since my earliest days of writing, I would say that Godsworn has been more enjoyable to write, simply because I feel freer while doing so. There’s a very set vision I have in mind for Blood of the Covenant, while Godsworn is something I can let loose and have fun writing and creating.

5. What was the inspiration for your Fairytale Dragons story?

When I set out to be part of the Fairytale Dragons Anthology, I knew the most well-known fairytales were likely to be chosen by other authors. I wanted to pick a lesser-known tale both to make my story stand out and to help readers discover a fairytale they may have never heard before. My choice to retell Swan Lake harkens back to my days as a classical musician, and while the tale is deeply familiar to me, it’s definitely not even one of the top ten that comes to mind when people think of the word ‘fairytale.’ As for the retelling itself, considering that Odette is a shapeshifter even in the original, it came easily. One of my critique partners put it best while reading my submission: “You love dark, violent woman, so I wasn’t surprised by [your version of] Odette,” and it’s so true! Most of my works center around such a character, so I didn’t have difficulty morphing the original Odette to fit such a role.

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

Yes! As stated above, I’m currently working on wrapping up the first book in The Blood of the Covenant Trilogy, titled Bloodlust. If you enjoy my story in the Fairytale Dragons Anthology, it’s actually a very accurate taste of what to expect in Bloodlust. It’s gritty, dark, violent, and features a female lead who is all of these things and more. The blurb is below, and it’s set to release on December 29th, 2020!

Dragonsblood is more than life.

It’s magic.

But Rebecca Marella couldn’t care less about hers. She’s more concerned with protecting her cousin—even if it means marrying a man she doesn’t love.

Even if it means lying through her teeth.

And even if her desperate choices lead her to violence.

Yet for every line she’s willing to cross, her enemies are two steps ahead. When tragedy strips Rebecca of everything she’s ever known, she’s forced to confront the source of her terrifying power.

And mixing with dragons is a dangerous game.

Saving those she loves will mean blood on her hands—but each drop spilled only fuels the darkness within her. The more it feeds, the more ravenous it becomes, and satiating the beast will cost more than Rebecca was ever prepared to give.

She must salvage her humanity or find herself among the very monsters she swore to defeat.

7. Who is your favorite author and why?

I truly don’t have one individual that stands out above all the rest. There were plenty of authors who helped shape my childhood: Erin Hunter, Christopher Paolini, Cornelia Funke, Rick Riordan, and Suzanne Collins are certainly up there, as are the Warrior Cats Series, The Inheritance Cycle, The Inkheart Trilogy, Percy Jackson & The Olympians Series, and The Hunger Games respectively, but I tend to gravitate towards individual titles rather than the authors themselves. Nowadays, I read mostly self-published works, and have found tons of new gems to follow: notably Clare Sager, Jenna Moreci, and Meg LaTorre with their works Beneath Black Sails, The Savior’s Series, and The Cyborg Tinkerer.

8. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

Jenna Moreci immediately springs to mind! You might recognize her from her very popular and successful YouTube channel, and this was how I originally discovered her as well—but she’s also a very accomplished bestselling author! My current read is her dark fantasy novel The Savior’s Sister, the companion novel to the bestselling The Savior’s Champion, and though I didn’t think it was possible, Ms. Moreci has outdone herself in every possible way in The Savior’s Sister. I was lucky enough to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of the novel as it doesn’t release until September 29th, but if you’re a lover of dark fantasy romance, I highly recommend The Savior’s Series. In addition to writing bestselling books, Ms. Moreci also runs a YouTube channel, Writing with Jenna Moreci, in which she makes weekly videos about everything writing, publishing, and more. I admire the way in which she not only gives back to her community but how professional and kind she’s been in each of the personal interactions I’ve been lucky enough to have with her.

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

I love spending time with my partner, reading, caring for my menagerie of pets (I have a cat, four rabbits, a tortoise, three snakes, two frogs, and some fish, and also frequently foster animals from my local shelter), playing video games, and making music either by playing my instruments or composing my own.

10. Favorite artist and/or favorite song?

You can’t ask a professional musician this question! Kidding—but that’s a hard one and the answer will be similar to the ‘favorite author’ question: I really don’t have one, because my taste in music changes by the day, and sometimes by the hour. I listen to quite a bit of classical music, with the mid-late romantic era composers being my favorite (Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev). I love instrumental music in general, as I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while I write as it’s too distracting. Modern favorite instrumental composers include David Chappell, Greg Dombrowski of Secession Studios, and Lucas King.

11. What was your dream job when you were younger?

The first career I ever remember wanting to have is a veterinarian, which makes total sense considering my love of animals, but I’m glad I chose a different path. I’ve seen glimpses of animal surgeries in real life and don’t think I could stomach doing that on a regular basis!

12. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Jenna Moreci for several reasons: she has a professional background in business and marketing, has knowledge of video editing given her YouTube channel, and she’s a bestselling author in her own right, who happens to also write in my genre! I could put all of these skills to use and would love to be mentored by and learn from someone as successful (and hilarious) as her.

13. Where can readers learn more about you?

Thank you so much for the interview opportunity, DSP, and for the great questions! And thank YOU for reading! I’d love to connect with you on any or all the places below!

Website – https://rldavennor.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rldavennor

Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/rldavennor

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rldavennor

Amazon Author Page – https://amazon.com/author/rldavennor

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/rldavennor

To hear my music:

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ViU2S2HrTc0XXaOHaWRFw

SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/rldavennor

Narrative Tension for Beginners

Narrative tension. You can’t create a page-turner without it. If there is no tension, the story won’t be very intriguing. How many of us have always dreamed of reading a book about a man who just sits on a bench the entire story? My point exactly. We want to read something that will pull us in. Give us the story of a man on a bench waiting for his blind date when some aliens suddenly land on Earth. That definitely makes things more interesting. Adding tension to your story can be tricky when you’re first starting out as a writer because it’s all about finding balance. You don’t want to overload your story and make it so convoluted with tension that you confuse your readers, but at the same time you don’t want it so thinned out that your story reads more like a to-do list with different characters than an actual plotted out idea. 

So, how do you find that balance? Simple. I’ve come up with some tips for first time writers looking to build tension in their stories. It’s important to keep in mind that tension is something your story should have, no matter if it’s 2,000 words or 200,000 words. 

Keep Raising the Stakes:

Okay, so you’ve got an initial conflict that sets your story in motion, but then you need to layer on top of it the smaller complications that arise from that end goal. Let’s dissect a classic plot for a moment. Lord of the Rings. We have the overarching goal that sets the story in motion, Frodo has the ring of power and he has to get it out of the Shire. But he’s only supposed to get it as far as Rivendell, however, the council votes to take it to Mordor and throw it into the fire and Frodo volunteers. Boom! The stakes just got raised for Frodo. Then the mines of Moria happen and Gandalf is lost. Stakes are raised again for the whole fellowship. Then the group splits up when the Uruk-hai attack. Stakes raised even further. Merry and Pippin are taken hostage causing Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli to go rescue them. More raised stakes – and that’s all just the first book!

But you can see where I’m going with this. One main conflict can have a ripple effect of other conflicts that arise, and your characters have to react to them. Each new minor conflict is you leveling up the tension for your characters, and making your readers want to keep reading because they don’t know how the character(s) will react. Your plot doesn’t even need to have a dragon and five armies to make it tense, every day contemporary stories can be just as intense. It all boils down to your main character wanting something, going after it, and setting in motion a bunch of minor hiccups that arise along the way, making it a constant choice between A or B. Love triangles are a very popular example of this. And a character’s desire doesn’t always have to be this grandiose desire to bring justice and equality to the world and tear down the corrupt system in order for your plot to have a purpose and drive conflict forward. Let us not forget that Shaun of the Dead’s events all started because someone wanted a Cornetto. 

Balance Tension with Moments of Calm:

I know I said you need to keep raising the stakes, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t give your character(s) a bit of break every once in a while. In fact, it’s encouraged. You need to give your readers a chance to digest what’s happening in between obstacles. If you have too many problems arising for your characters all at once, it becomes too much. Plus, these moments of “rest” are where you can build the stories in other ways like characterization or revealing bits of backstory. For example, if you have two bank robbers trying to make it down from Montana to the Mexican border, you can slow it down a bit by maybe giving them a flat tire on a remote stretch of highway somewhere like New Mexico or Arizona. You’d still have the tension of a flat tire when they’re so close to achieving their goal, but there is still a chance to have some calm moments. While the two bank robbers are waiting for Triple A to arrive, they can have an in-depth conversation. One can reveal that he’s trying to pay off a loan shark, while the other can admit he’s never changed a flat tire before. Either way, that slow moment on the highway can be a chance to work on backstory and characterization. 

Don’t think that a story’s action needs to be all rise all the time in order to create tension. You can get the same effect from a few falls. Tension works best when you have a rise and a fall. Another great idea for tension is these false senses of security. When your character thinks they’ve accomplished their task and they’re home free, that is a fine time to reveal that there’s still a little ways to go. Again, drawing back to Lord of the Rings, Frodo gets the ring to Rivendell. Everything seems chill. Those scenes are very calm for Frodo who thinks he’s soon going home. But then the council happens. The “oh my goodness” moment when Frodo offers to carry the ring to Mordor wouldn’t be so powerful if you didn’t have those calming moments before. While Frodo is in his false sense of security you’re able to digest all that he just went through to get to Rivendell. You feel for him. Which brings me to my next point…

Make Your Reader Emotional:

You can create the most intense plot with the perfect rise and fall pacing, but it won’t mean anything if your reader isn’t emotionally invested in what your character is experiencing. I will admit that a good portion of making your reader like your character, is to create a likeable character (I wrote a blog post on that if you want to read it). But another way to get your readers to like your character is using the plot. Even if your main plot of your book is something big like dismantling the ruling system, it’s a good idea to start small in terms of your character’s desire.

One example of this The Hunger Games. Across the three novels Katniss ends up creating a revolution and bringing down the corrupt government. She’s hailed as a hero. But that wasn’t her initial goal. Her initial goal was quite simple and quite relatable: She wanted to protect her sister. Even if we don’t have siblings, we all have at least one person we’d be willing to volunteer for if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation. Therefore, as readers we are more willing to emotionally invest in a character that wants to protect her loved one from death, rather than a character who right off the bat is ready to take down the government. While something small, like a character wanting to return a library book before the library closes or getting a the last bag of jelly donuts for their sick family member can be what is needed to set a bigger plot in motion, it can also serve to make a character relatable to the reader. We’ve all needed to get somewhere before it closes just like we’ve all rushed to the end of the aisle to pick up the last something because it’s for someone we care about, and it’s these small, universal actions that readers relate to that help them become emotionally invested in your character’s conflict. 

Bring the Tension from Various Points:

When we think of tension between characters we tend to think of heroes and villains. And yes, the tension between your hero and your villain is important. But that doesn’t mean that we can overlook the side characters. Some of these side characters can actually help to create tension for your main characters. In fact, some side characters can be integral to subplots that create tension in the story. Never under-estimate the power of secondary conflict. For example, Batman. You have the main conflict of a superhero trying to clean up Gotham’s streets, but at the same, you also have the tension from his personal life as Bruce Wayne to factor in as well. Of course, while you want to bring in tension from all angles, you also don’t want to overcomplicate your plot either. It’s a fine balance.

Writing Horror Fiction in Today’s World

Horror has a seductive hold on us. Horror is like a tentacle crawling from the crypts of our darkest dreams to suck us into horrific nightmares. Horror, if done properly, casts a dark magic, sending chills down readers’ spines.

Now is the time, now is the hour. In my opinion, horror movies such as Insidious 1-2, The Possession of Hannah Grace, and Sinister aren’t scary enough for me. I am an avid writer of horror fiction and I am well read. I know that in order to give readers or viewers the frights royale, readers should be too afraid to not leave the lights on all night and hide under the covers. And curse the writer because they can’t put the book down.

The writer must make extra effort to horrify jaded readers. There is a difference between horrifying and terrifying. One of the two you experience more deeply. Terror is more effective. I won’t watch The Exorcist which deals with similar themes as the movies mentioned above, but does a much better job. The Exorcist doesn’t turn away from something revolting, it stares it in the eye. It makes you look too, when you don’t want to. -and doesn’t let go. The same is true for Silence of the Lambs. But it doesn’t need to gross readers necessarily just to be scary.

Novels such as Dracula and Frankenstein reflected the time or era in which they were written. In Victorian times, darkly romantic fanged noblemen were scary because the society had different fears and beliefs about death than now. Those fears wouldn’t faze us today. Anne Rice wrote about vampires and made vampires intimidating and sexy again. That is why the novels were successful. Today, writers like Suzanne Collins draw from what they view in the world today. We are more sophisticated now yet desensitized at the same time.

If you are interested in penning a horror novel or short story, I suggest the following tips: Get out of your own comfort zone. Change the environment where you write. Bring your writing pad, coffee, and lurk in a cemetery, visit a haunted location or a morgue, and research the folklore of your hometown. You might create something original, which can be helpful. Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new things breathes new life into your writing. Here are a few more tips.

Buy a tarot deck to inspire you, read dark poetry of a poet you never heard of until now. Go on a trip to a quiet seaside town that has a paranormal history. Be safe as you explore new eerie cemeteries or towns.

Trust in yourself. If you’re fearful while writing the story, there’s a good chance your reader will be too. Pay attention to your dreams. Often dreams reflect our daily lives and what is hidden in our subconscious. Heed your insights and flashes of inspiration. I penned a dark novel based on a flash of inspiration that I would never have dreamed up otherwise. Learn all you can and be openminded. Then when you have created your villainous monster, you can make him or her or it the main character. Be true to your creation, your own monster. Your readers will recognize the true effort you put in.

We have global communication today. We can see the world events on the Internet. The Internet opened a window into the savage truth that we could be in the grip of an almost impending apocalyptic doom. Now that is scary.

Audiences and readers today have seen everything. A novel can be successful still, but writers must be unabashedly original to truly terrify their readers. Look at what is happening in society. The monsters of yesterday are not the monsters of today. It worked for Stephen King and Thomas Harris and with luck, it can work for you too.

Serving Real Life, But Make it Fantasy

Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.” I love this quote because it’s so true, and given its truth, this is why I’m a fantasy writer and not a comic.

There are a lot of people out there that think fantasy is for children, or it’s just a made up world with weird names and magic. But in reality, the fantasy genre has so much more potential than that. Fantasy can actually be real life mirrored back at us but from another realm.

A few years ago when I was 25, I somehow managed to get accepted into the Creative Writing Program at Trinity College Dublin where I completed a Master’s in creative writing. Besides getting one of my best friends out of the year-long program, I also got a wealth of knowledge from my professors, as each one of them was a creative expert in their chosen medium. One of them wrote extensively on the problems facing modern Irish society, yet many of his novels are set in the past.

Why was that?

He had a very straightforward answer when confronted. He told the workshop, “I’m not a journalist. I don’t have to bore you with facts. I’m a writer so my goal should be to entertain you, while helping you draw the parallels yourself.”

It was this bit of wisdom that encouraged me to write strictly fantasy. What he said that day about giving readers the tools to make the connections themselves really stuck with me. As writers we all want to think that our words make a difference to people, or that we’re somehow making a fresh impact on social issues by incorporating them into our work.

And while this is probably true, I have found that setting things either in the past or, better still, in a whole other realm is one of the best ways to drive home a particular point that you may want to make about society.

Especially in this heated political climate we live in, there is so much we can write about and draw inspiration for, for stories. But there are also plenty of opportunities to offend people and draw out the more comments should you choose to set a politically-charged story in modern days on top of making a point to give your direct opinion.

But you know where you can get away with all that? The past. Or better still, a whole new world. Think about big controversial topics like the environment, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, religion, etc. All these can cause a stir if you write about them directly. However, rather than write about them directly, if you create another world where you allude to similar parallels, you can actually have a much more impacting effect.

So, yes, fantasy can be a wonderful outlet if you want to get people to think about the modern world we live in. Some very beloved stories do just that. For example, Tolkien was heavily influenced by WWI and it shows throughout his series of Lord of the Rings where war and conflict and change are at the core of the story. J.K. Rowling is another writer who has strong ties to modern problems in our society. The plight of the house elves and other problems facing the magical world all stem from her experiences working for Amnesty International. Suzanne Collins and her work for The Hunger Games was heavily influenced by the Iraq War, as well as her own father’s experiences in the military. These are probably some of the more famous examples, but you can see my point. These stories each carry powerful messages within them, but they wouldn’t be nearly as powerful if the writers didn’t provide their point a little distance.

So, that is why I am definitely a proponent of fantasy as a walk of reflecting life back to society. Just keep writing and when in doubt, make it fantasy.