When writing high fantasy, what is the most difficult aspect of world creation?
For me, the most difficult portion of world building is linguistics--making sure that the character & place names of a world fit each individual country's or kingdom's culture, without sounding like an obvious "borrow" from France or Christianity. I want my fantasy worlds to be rich and complex and sound like they are their own entity rather than just something borrowed or revamped from Earth. I'm not a linguist, so making sure I do that well takes a lot of time and effort. (Why can't we all be Tolkien, dang it!?)
Where do you find inspiration for your character names and regions of your world?
Oops! I sort of answered that in the question above by complete coincidence. To elaborate, I enjoy borrowing. InAmaskan's Blood, the name of the continent is Boahim, which reminded me of Hebrew words. Knowing that the Hebrew culture and mythos has played a heavy role in literature, video games, movies, etc., it worked well for a culture steeped in religion and war and family. All three are heavy elements in my novel. But I wanted each individual kingdom in the Little Dozen Kingdoms to still be distinct in its own identity, so I tweaked elements or created them anew as needed. The Kingdom of Alexander has a fairly heavy French-English influence, whereas Shad borrows elements of its naming and culture from India. When I'm writing sci-fi, I do much the same thing. Building entire civilizations and planets full of people isn't all that different in sci-fi vs. fantasy.
How has being a writer impacted your everyday world?
Being a writer changed everything. Cliche answer, yet true. Honestly, I never did see things the same way others did, even as a child. People would walk past the busker on the street corner, but in my mind, I'd by asking a million questions. Why was he busking? Was he homeless or did he just want to entertain? Or did he need a music job and think this would be the way? Why guitar? Because it was easily portable, or did he always feel drawn to that instrument? The questions wouldn't end until I'd created an entire scenario in my head about this busker that I passed five minutes ago.
In a more literal sense, writing changed my world because after twelve years, I quit teaching to pursue writing full-time. My day to day has changed. I now spend 8-15 hours a day writing and editing. In some ways, I'm more busy now than I ever was a teacher working 55 hour work weeks.
Where do you find the best inspiration outside of other fantasy novels?
Everyday life. Just people watching. Also, dreams. Some of my best ideas began as dreams.
In your opinion, what is the best fantasy world ever created, in any medium?
Wow. That's a tough question. I don't know that I can answer with only one world... Off hand, I would have to mention Middle Earth (Tolkien) and Pern (McCaffrey). Those are the big ones that stand out in my mind. If I can, I'd throw in the mythos of Star Wars and Star Trek because their influence alone has been monumental to sci-fi/fantasy.
As far as your writing process is concerned, do you tend to make a plan and stick to it, or do you prefer to let the story arise organically as you go?
A mix of both. I outline in a decent amount of detail, but I'm not adverse to allowing the story to grow and develop outside of my outline. For example, with Amaskan's Blood, I had a completely different ending in mind when I began the book, but as the characters grew into the story, the twists moved the plot line in a different direction completely--a better direction, I think. (And no, I won't say what the ending is because...spoilers!)
What is the best advice another writer has ever given to you?
Put my butt in the chair and write. Every. Single. Day. Also: All rules are meant to be broken, except that one!
What has been the most frustrating aspect of being an author?
The business side of it.
With the growth of social media, promotion and marketing has rested firmly on the shoulders of the authors. It's time consuming--time better spent writing--but books sell best through word-of-mouth. If a writer wants to be successful, promotion and marketing is a necessary evil.
Finally, where can we find your work?