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I am so excited to bring you this interview.

I love science fiction and fantasy and I particularly love it when someone writes a story and plays around with the tropes I love so well. One of the things I’ve noticed is that books from diverse authors really bring a distinct flavour to genre. For example, Lukyanenko’s Daywatch or books by Alliete De Boddard, Isabelle Allende, Ken Liu etc.

I stumbled across JC Kang’s series in one of Patty Jansen’s regular newsletters ‘Ebookaroo’. I was so taken by the covers I had to buy one. Then I started reading Dances of Deception. Oh my…I’d picked up book three but didn’t realise and it was too late to stop and go back to book one so I kept on reading it.

I couldn’t stop reading it!

This series is a high fantasy with dragons, elves, dwarves, gods and the rest. But for me it had something different–an Asian-centric viewpoint, meticulous world building carefully woven into the story, a world with many cultures, each with their unique manners and approach to life well depicted.

It had political intrigue, trade issues, plausible economics, ninjas and romance. The magic in this world ranges from beautiful and delicate to blunt and hard. The characters were well drawn and three dimensional, each with a history and a complex set of relationships. (As I started in book three this is to be expected). My favourite characters are Tian, the secret agent/spy dude, who is probably most like a ninja, the princess, Kaiya, who has difficult but character-building adventures and Jie, the half elf handmaiden, come body guard.

Here is a graphic of my favourite characters. Thank you John!

3heroes

The baddie in this book is bad! Yet, there is a side to him that evokes some compassion, due to the curse of his people. I like how Kang sprinkles this hard race with sympathetic characters that lead you to believe that there is hope for change. I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll say no more.

Also, the interior layout is something special. Some lovely touches in the ebook.

This is definitely a five star read for me. Now my dilemma is do I buy the books in ebook or print?

John (JC Kang) dropped by my blog today and answered some questions. It’s a special day because Book four is launching today.

4book

  1. John tell me a bit about you, where you live and what you do for a day job.

I hail from the black hole of despair, also known as the Capital of the Confederacy. Actually, Richmond, Virginia, has since transformed from the urban blight of my childhood, to hipster haven and up-and-coming foodie capital of America. We probably have more craft breweries per capita than any other place in the world.  I’m an acupuncturist and herbalist, and also moonlight as a Wing Chun Kung-Fu instructor.

  1. What first interested you in the fantasy?

When searching for a BDSM club… no, wait, you mean fantasy fiction!  Yeah, just ignore that first part.  I must’ve been five, and my older brother read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to me. It was my gateway drug to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and then onto harder addictions like Dungeons and Dragons.

  1. How long have you been writing? Did you always aspire to write fiction?

After I read the Dragonlance Chronicles, I was determined to be a fiction writer.  My first story was basically a rip-off of Dragons of Autumn Twilight based in my D&D world, with only the names changed to protect the innocent. Basically, my younger self didn’t have a unique idea in his head, and he gave up on the idea of writing fiction.

  1. You have a beautifully rendered story in Dragon Songs Saga. How did you about developing this world? What were your influences? Did you research? If so, what, how?

Twenty-five years after I went through rehab for my D&D addiction, I uncovered the world building materials in my childhood home.  As an adult, I had to laugh at what my younger self dreamt up (nice men who respected women) or otherwise plagiarized (impossibly beautiful women who like ugly guys). Still, there were some cool underlying ideas, and I spent the next week reimagining the world with those premises at the starting point; but taking into account trivial matters like gravity, supply and demand, and biology.

My biggest influences were the Civilization video game, Tolkien, Chinese Wuxia movies, and samurai dramas. And Jedi Knights. I can’t say I did a ton of research, but I’ve worked as a political analyst and economics technical writer, and watched a whole lot of TV (usually while I was doing economic analysis, which probably explains why I am now an acupuncturist).  During the writing process, I researched everything from the Latvian language to ancient Ethiopian culture (and that BDSM in my search history, it was purely research for writing).

  1. Why did you write the Dragon Songs Saga? (I’m wondering here if there is a dearth of Asian-centric high fantasy, or was it that you were sick of western-centric fantasies etc).

I had actually planned three books total, the first with a Western-oriented story which would recount a war between cursed descendants of the Sun God and humans who had mingled with elves in ancient times; and the third which would follow an East African sorceress, a Persian priest, and an Asian Indian “jedi” (I was serious in that earlier answer) as they discover the secrets of the world’s pyramids.

However, I settled on the middle story about an East Asian princess who could evoke magic through music, and her childhood friend who had become a ninja, as they try to escape from the aforementioned descendants of the Sun God. It wasn’t because I was sick of Western fantasy—there’s plenty of non-Western stuff out there nowadays—but rather because I had a strong background in Asian history and was too lazy to research the other two arcs.

  1. I think, judging from the world building and plot in your books, that you are a planner rather than a panster? Am I right? How do you develop a series of books like this, so rich with culture? Spill your secrets!

I’m a totally plantser.  After all, what was meant to be a single novel became a 4-book series. After I wrote the book you read, Dances of Deception, I went back and wrote the prequel, and then the sequel, and then  the prequel to the prequel.

As a whole, I have an idea of where I want to go, but sometimes (this will sound so stereotypical) the characters rebel against my machinations and decide they know what they want to do better than I do; and sometimes get an idea and have to retrofit it into earlier parts of a story.

For example, Tivaralan has three moons. One of my earlier readers thought I shouldn’t use Earth’s hour system, and I realized one of the moons, which has an orbital period of one day and never moves from its spot in the sky, would go through all its phases in that day. People on the planet would naturally use it to tell time and for direction.  Another moon was large and blue with an orbital period of 44 days; but later, I read an article about a Super Saturn, J1407b, so I turned that blue moon into a planet and moved its orbit way out so that its shape would change over the course of 2 years.

  1. Who are your favourite characters in the Dragon Song Saga and why?

I am a total narcissist, and since my characters all embody the best aspects of me, I can’t decide.  Kaiya, because she has a heroic spirit. Tian, because he is smart and handsome. Jie, because of her quick wit. And Chen Xin for his modesty.   In all seriousness, though, my favo(u)rite would be Tian’s brother, Ming, who is something of a flamboyant buffoon.

  1. What made you decide to Indie Publish?

I actually had a R&R out with an agent on Book 1, but after a brush with my own mortality–

  1. Brush with your mortality? That sounds serious! What happened?

My friends made me watch Fifty Shades of Grey, and at the end, I wanted to shoot myself.

10: So why indie publish?

I realized I could die any time, maybe before I got representation. Even then, the entire revision process would take a year or two, and who knows, maybe no publishing house would take it. In the meantime, I had 4 books which had been critted, revised, beta read, and revised again. Basically, they needed a professional edit and covers.

All that said, I didn’t know the first thing about marketing, so I first released Dragon Songs with different covers and titles which suggested YA Fantasy Romance.  I was attracting readers who wanted to see Kaiya fall in love with the dragon, not vanquish it.  I just rebranded starting this year.

  1. What’s ahead for you fiction writing wise?

I’m currently working on four projects, all which relate to the Dragon Songs series: a 1st Person, Single POV YA version of Songs of Insurrection; An episodic serial which follows the dragon, Avarax, who is stuck in human form and has to learn how to play nice with other humans; A story which takes place a thousand years before Dragon Songs, which recounts how the First Dragon Singer sings Avarax to sleep; and Book 1 of the series with the aforementioned Sorceress, Priest, and Jedi as they learn about the pyramids (I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke, with a worst punchline).  Jie from Dragon Songs will also play an important role in that story.

Thank you so much John. The story about you and your novels are so interesting!

What are you waiting for people! You should buy these books!

Book One, Songs of Insurrection, Blurb

Only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can save the realm. Only a naïve girl with the perfect voice can rediscover it.

Blessed with an unrivaled voice, Kaiya dreams of a time when music could summon typhoons and rout armies. Maybe then, the imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool.

When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan uncover a brewing insurrection, the court hopes to appease the ringleader by offering Kaiya as a bride.

Obediently wedding the depraved rebel lord means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.

Looks like these books are only available on Amazon. Free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Buy link here.

Book Two, Orchestra of Treacheries, Blurb

The mightiest dragon threatens the world, and only the power of a Dragon Song can vanquish him.

Two years have passed since Kaiya rediscovered the lost magic of Dragon Songs, yet the power of her voice is untrained. Potential suitors see her as a stepping stone. One ruthless cousin would rather step on her gravestone.

Not one to get walked over or buried, Kaiya is holding out for the exiled foreign prince who inspired her to sing. The only one who appreciates her abilities more is the world’s last dragon, Avarax, and it’s not because he enjoys a good song.

Raw and unproven, she finds mentors in unlikely places. An elf courtier. An ancient healer. A martial arts master. And an evil sorcerer. She’ll need their guidance to survive the final showdown between a girl finding her voice, and a dragon who has no intention of being fooled a second time.

Buy link here.

Book Three, Dances of Deception, Blurb

An invincible empire threatens to invade Cathay, and only a Dragon Song can ensure peace.

After vanquishing the Last Dragon with the power of her voice, all Kaiya wants is a quiet life of anonymity. Instead, the Emperor sends her to negotiate peace with the aggressive Teleri Empire.

The critical mission reunites her with her childhood friend Tian, now an assassin-spy who loathes killing. He is no longer the adorable, gullible boy from her memories, any more than she is the adventurous, sweet girl from his. Instead of rekindling nostalgia for a youthful innocence they both yearn for, their reunion ignites a mutual hatred.

When the Teleri Empire breaks off talks, Tian must help Kaiya escape. Orcs, Ogres, and enemy soldiers stand between them and home, and their volatile relationship could get them captured… or killed.

Buy link here.

Book Four, Symphony of Fates, blurb

Kaiya escapes her ordeal at the hands of the Teleri Emperor, only to return to a homeland beset by enemies on all sides, and crumbling from within.

As a teenager, she quelled a rebellion with the Dragon Scale Lute. As a young adult, she vanquished a dragon with the power of her voice.

Now, robbed of her magic by grief, Kaiya must navigate a web of court intrigue to save the realm before it falls. Only she can lay claim to the Dragon Throne on behalf of her unborn sons—whether the father is the lover who perished rescuing her, or the hated enemy who killed him.

In the final story in Kaiya’s saga, she must rally a nation, repel invaders, and prove to the world why her family alone holds the Mandate of Heaven.

This book is live today.

Buy link here.

Here is a link to John talking about YouTube.

BTW I’m on the hunt for some more diverse fantasy and science fiction so expect more.

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It is my pleasure to have Jane here today. When I first met Jane I was an aspiring writer with more zeal than talent or craft. Jane made an impression on me as an author who was happy to share her experience and was very gracious and friendly. Jane is a prior winner of the Aurealis Award for fantasy novel and remember thinking when we me met, wow, just wow. I managed to talk her into coming to Conflux in Canberra… maybe more than once.

Jane Routely

Jane Routley

Jane has provided some wonderful and insightful answers to the interview questions. Some of her habits I can totally relate to.

Your new novel is coming out. Can you tell us a bit about it?

In The Three Sisters, a woman warrior and a mage, who refuses to grow up, traverse an oppressed land in order find a kidnapped sister. Elena, the missing sister, has the curse of Fatal Beauty which means those who see her desire to own her. Unbeknowst to the sisters hidden powers are manipulating their destinies.

The Three Sisters was published some time ago by Harper Collins U.S. under a pseudonym. Clan Destine Press have been kind enough to bring it out as an ebook under my own name so that it can be read in Australia.

There is an unpublished sequel called The Melded Child which I very much hope Clan Destine will bring out in the next year or so.

Jane tell us a bit about yourself (where you live, how long you’ve been writing, previous publications etc)

I’m from Melbourne although I spent seven years in the 90’s living in Frankfurt and Copenhagen. I was a trailing spouse when I lived in Europe so I started writing then. I’d always wanted to be a writer so I figured it was time stop making excuses and knuckle down. I’ve published 4 novels and a number of short stories. Two of the Dion Chronicles won Aurealis Awards for the best fantasy novel in the year they came out.

Print edition from Ticonderoga Publications through Indie Books Online and

Ebook edition.

I had a big slump in the early naughties. Changes in the publishing world made it very difficult for a while and I completely lost my confidence. I never stopped writing but I’m back to finishing things for publication again.

Jane what do you find so attractive about the fantasy genre? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?

I’ve always loved history but I find historical fiction a bit limiting. You’re stuck with an already set out world and if your characters are well known to history you know how they’re going to end up. I’m interesting in travelling in new worlds. At the moment I’m interested in exploring a world in which wealth is passed down through the female line, which is does happen in our world too, but not on a state level. I thought it hadn’t been explored enough in fantasy. I’ve also always loved fairy tales – the sense of wonder that comes from magic. You can do that in fantasy. I do like the way people like Kate Forsyth are combining history and fantasy in books like Bitter Greens.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on “Shadow in the Empire of Light” at the moment. “Shadow” is about an orphan without magical gifts in a powerful family of mages stuck in the country managing the family estates with only an eccentric aunt and a telepathic cat for company. It’s about her breaking out to find her own way in the world.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

As a writer I’m more of a panster than a planner. I know what I’m interested in writing about and I usually have some idea of where I want to go, but I never have much idea of how I’m going to get there. Every book I start I try to be more of a planner. It must save so much time and angst. I always get to a point where the book goes dead and I’ve learned that that’s because I’m trying to make the characters do something that doesn’t work. Gee it’s miserable when it happens. I wish I didn’t have to go through it. On the other hand I get bored easily, so perhaps it’s best if I don’t know how things are going to go.

As a panster, I know I write stories and books to see what’s going to happen if… What if a woman was irresistibly beautiful as Elena is in The Three Sisters. What is it like to colonized? This is a big theme in Australia History. So I set up these conditions, invent these characters and just keep asking what if… until I get closer and closer to the story that feels right for me. It’s a bit like being an archaeologist or painting an oil painting.

I try to write most days for at least an hour, two preferably. I work part time so it makes that easier. I don’t wait for inspiration. I just sit down at the computer and stay there until my time is up. If I can’t write I sit there and feel bored. Sometimes I get stuck but even then I sit down. I’ve never had writers block really badly though I have had some really miserable times sitting at my desk. If I can’t think of anything to write I write in my diary (usually a sadly neglected file)

Elizabeth Jolley once said that one way to avoid getting stuck was to leave the previous day’s work slightly unfinished so that you’ve got something to go on with when you sit down next. I find that always works for me.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

Despite the fact that I’ve set up my life to be a writer, I still find sitting down to do it the hardest thing of all. Almost anything is easier than writing. There are still those little voices in my head saying that I’m wasting my time and that nobody wants to read this stuff. I’m very achievement orientated and signs of achievement come very slowly when you’re a writer.

There’s much more instant gratification to be had from doing the garden or having morning coffee with friends or watching eight hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And much more fun chatting on social media. That why I make myself sit down for a couple of hours on a computer that’s not on-line (yes such things do exist.) Otherwise I probably wouldn’t write at all and I’d get very down and grumpy and not know why. I regularly need to remind myself that if it makes you happy, it’s worth doing even if nobody else thinks it’s worthwhile. But I write to be read which is why I finish things.

What do you prefer, drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I find the drafting really really hard work and as I said earlier I sometimes get stuck. Plotting is the hardest part of a story. I really enjoy the reworking and the revising because you have the certainty of knowing where you’re going and you have the pleasure of adding texture to the world that can really make it sparkle. I actually go through each novel three times at least. Once to do a very detailed first draft and the second time to add the flesh to the bones and the third time to polish the prose.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’d like to do a sequel to Shadow in the Empire of Light though ideally I should try and find it a home before I start. I’m also half way through a man on man time travel romance which I started years ago and have been working on on and off for years. I’d love to finish that.

The Three Sisters book cover

The Three Sisters book cover

Here is the blurb!

“A captivating read” Sara Douglass

Three sisters, estranged from the Society they are destined to save. Elena, more beautiful than any man can resist, is kidnapped, her destiny controlled by the men who desire her. Yani, warrior woman, brave, strong, able to pass as a man, who will do anything to find Elena. Marigoth, powerful female mage, determined never to grow up, equally committed to finding their missing sister. In a country oppressed and cruelly ruled, the fate of many people lies in the unsuspecting hands of these three women.

Published by Clan Destine Press link here.   Ebook format. Available also in kindle or mobi

Price AUS $6.79

ISBN  9780992492595

Thank you so much Jane for elaborating on your writing processes.

You can find Jane online at www.janeroutley.com.au and

https://www.facebook.com/jane.routley.5

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/333390.Jane_Routley

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