Today I’m pleased to welcome Shona Kinsella to BrizzleLass Books as part of the Neverland Blog Tours blog tour for Ashael Rising. This is Shona’s debut novel, an epic fantasy which is on my read list and I’m just sorry I didn’t have time to review it for this tour as it sounds wonderful. Shona has written a wonderful post on writing speculative fiction, as this is my favourite genre I loved reading her thoughts especially around worldbuilding, something my regular readers will know I’m a little obsessed with!
Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.
The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.
Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.
When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.
Why Write Speculative Fiction
I often joke and say that I like to write fantasy because I don’t have to do any research, I can just make it up as I go along. That actually isn’t true, I do quite a lot of research because I think the accuracy of the mundane details makes the magical more acceptable – it helps the reader to suspend disbelief. The real reason that I love speculative fiction so much is the sheer breadth of possibility. If you set up the world right, you can make anything at all happen; it just has to make sense in the context of the world you have built. For example, in Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, it’s established early on that on the storm-ridden world of Roshar, the energy of the storm can be caught in gems called spheres, which are then used for light. It’s then plausible that the energy could be captured and utilised in other ways too – and so we have characters who can use the stormlight to perform inhuman feats.
Of course, the flip side of this is that your world must be built well and be internally consistent. In KalaDene, the Folk are a tribal people, hunter-gatherers who live in harmony with their planet. This harmony allows them to manipulate the life energy that suffuses everything. However, since the source of their magic is life force, I can’t have them running around casting spells everywhere with no limit – they can only use the energy that is available and if they take too much from one place, they are taking life itself. To have their power be unlimited would not be internally consistent.
Another thing I love about speculative fiction is the ability to take issues that are of importance in the real world and look at them in a different context. Issues such as racism, religious persecution, environmentalism and gender equality have all featured in speculative fiction in forms that allow them to be examined in a way that may not trigger the same level of emotion that a more “realistic” novel is likely to engender. This can be a really useful tool and can be very eye-opening for the writer. For example, in Ashael Rising, the cams are gender-equal, with men and women both taking leadership roles and nurturing roles. No-one is assigned tasks or limited in their choices because of their gender. Writing that sort of culture made me realise how gendered our use of language can be. In an early draft, I had a character dismissing something as ‘female intuition’ without thinking about how these people would not frame intuition that way.
For me, the only downside to writing speculative fiction is that when you create another world, you have to keep track of so much information. I have files on the flora, fauna and climate of KalaDene, on the races and their cultures, on the history that brought them all to where they are now. If I had written a book set in Glasgow, a lot of the information I needed would already be known to me or would be just a Google search away. Instead I had to make everything up and then keep track of the implications of that. I’m sure that my world-building files will only get bigger as I continue with the series.
About Shona Kinsella
Shona Kinsella is a fantasy author who lives near the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, in the west of Scotland. She is a member of the British Fantasy Society where she writes reviews of indie books. Shona has a degree in Law from the University of Strathclyde where she learned a lot about narrative structure.; everyone loves a story.
Shona enjoys spending time outdoors and much of her writing is inspired by the environment that she lives in, at the edge of Scotland’s first national park. When she is not writing, she enjoys geocaching with her husband and children and reading as many books as she can get her hands on.
Head to Rafflecopter to enter this tour-wide giveaway for a £20 Amazon Gift Voucher and an e-copy of Ashael Rising. Good Luck.
Book & Buy Links
Title: Ashael Rising
Series: Vessel of Kala Dene #1
Author: Shona Kinsella
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publication Date: 6 February 2017
Review Format: N/A
Other Formats: eBook | Paperback
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | SpeedyHen