Friday, May 30, 2014

Jacky Gray: The Warrior Scholar

Hey guys!

So today I get to dish about the amazing and talented Jacky Gray. I like to think of her as the Warrior Scholar.

If anything, Jacky reminds me of those knights of old: Noble, loyal and wickedly clever. Completely comfortable picking up a pen, but not afraid of picking up the sword when the occasion calls for it (the occasion usually calls for it when she is helping me hack away at my first drafts).

Well not really, she's really very sweet. And totally giving, and helpful, and will go out of her way to help you become a better writer. I have so much to thank her for!

 How fabulous is she? And did I also mention she's the Mother of Dragons?

Um, don't believe me? Lame. When you find yourself facing the UNHOLY FIRE OF HER DRAGON PET, don't come crying to me!

Her actual dragon.
So yeah, she's kind of a big deal. And she's written a series of incredibly imaginative and historically awesome novels. Set in medieval England (kinda... you will have to read to find out why!), her Archer is a character after my own heart. I kind of want to steal him actually, but he's so honorable he probably wouldn't like it much. (PLUS you know, there's the DRAGON!). But you should definitely check them out: They are a great read for all ages, and explore an interesting time period in a completely new and unique way. And jousting, guys. There's jousting! (It's called a laaaaance, hello?!)

Archer and Rory and Reagan
Anyway, I really can't say enough good things about Jacky. For more information, check out her website! And now I'll let the gorgeous soul speak for herself!

The Questions:

1) Why write? What’s your inspiration? And when do you realize your ideas had merit?

If someone told me I couldn’t write anymore, it would be like cutting off my life-support system. Writing (or teaching about writing) is like breathing to me – essential for survival. I took a 6-month sabbatical from teaching to work as a university researcher and had to read 50 children’s books in 3 weeks. Pure heaven (mostly), except I had no time to write.

Being brought up in the shadow of Warwick castle, adventure and history were always large part of my childhood. But it wasn’t until I started teaching high school math (and learning how close my mind was to a teenage boy’s) that the true connection was made. A friend and I watched Kevin Hicks shoot 100 arrows through a piece of rope the size of a man’s head in five minutes and woke the warrior within me. It took 7 years to finish the book with an Adult Archer, but it was some time after that I decided to write about his teenage years. Then the words just flowed.

My very good friend Marianna was the first to see the merit in Archer – she took a bunch of books to sell in her bookshop in Glastonbury, inspired me to come up with the catch phrase “Be Brave, Be Worthy” and organized a signing at her shop complete with a medieval Archer Paul (and his wife Cara) who trooped up and down the High Street handing out flyers. Several years of re-enactor, pagan and faery festivals later, I now get that people like Archer as much as I do.

2) Who is your favorite author/what is your favorite book? 

Bernard Cornwell, Conn Igguldon (both of them do historical adventures the way they were meant to be written), Lee Child (there’s more than a little of Reacher in Archer – even their names are only one letter different!), Hunger Games series (so jealous of Suzanne Collins’ awesome writing style), John Flanagan’s “Ranger’s Apprentice series (apparently on analysis, the wordage in Archer is closer to this than any other!)

A single book? Couldn’t do it. The ones that have spoken to me most lately are Patrick Ness “A Monster Calls” and RJ Palacio’s “Wonder.” Both touched me deeply, on a soul level.
Films appeal to me more than books in terms of living in them; I would choose A Knight’s Tale or Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves) or Hook – that’s where it’s at for me. If I had to choose a book to live in, the closest would be Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother – or in fact the whole series (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) so I could spend time in each world. It’s kinda like Game of Thrones, but way more appealing for me, being set in prehistoric Europe.

3) Are you an outliner, or a writer-it-as-it-comes-er?

As soon as I sit in front of the keyboard, the words come pouring out – several thousand a night, for days on end. Archer was written in just 18 days, start to finish. A year later, I had drafts of the first five of the Hengist books. It’s taken an age to get them all spruced up enough to cast before a real audience and I’ve been holding off on publishing the latter ones until I reach the end of the series. So far I’m halfway through the seventh book and I need to go back and revisit some of the earlier ones to make sure that I have given enough clues about the stuff happening now, hence the stall on releasing the fourth book Slater.

4) Which of your characters is the most like you?

Archer – wall-to-wall courage, self-doubting, adventurous, generous, kind. At least that’s the me I like to think I am – others may know better.

5) Where do you write? Name three objects in the space and explain why they are significant (do you hold it when writing? Fiddle with it? Look at it?)

Most of Archer was written at my kitchen table, overlooked by a borrowed dragon staff and a huge map of the world. But great wedges of the subsequent books in the series were written in Wessex (Avebury, Glastonbury), Devon, Scotland and even France. As my collection of weapons and spiritual artefacts grew, I eventually had to put up some shelves to house them – but the best inspiration were my maps, weapons, dragons and secret garden. 

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