Today we’re joined by Angela Boord, and we discuss her upcoming novelette Dragonmeat featured in the Dark Ends anthology, the fine art of multitasking, her approach to writing those difficult scenes, and her stance on dragons.
About the Author
Angela Boord published a handful of short stories in the early 00s, then had a bunch of kids who are now all sleeping at night, making it easier to write again. She lives in northwestern Mississippi with her husband and their nine kids, plus two dogs, one cat, and varying numbers of chickens. She is currently hard at work on more books in the Eterean Empire series and plans to release Book 1.5 in early 2020.
Care to tell us who are you in 10 words or less?
Mother of nine by day, epic fantasy writer by night and naptimes.
Give us a brief introduction to your Dark Ends story.
Eating dragons may have unintended consequences.
What was the inspiration for your Dark Ends story?
I hate to admit this, but I’m not a huge fan of dragons. The kernel of the idea for “Dragonmeat” came to me a long time ago, I think just after I had finished reading a story about dragon-slaying to my kids. And I thought, you know, what happens to the dead dragon? Do they just let it sit there and rot? Wouldn’t it stink? And what about the meat? Is it just going to waste? What about all the hungry people?
Since you’re not a fan of dragons (ya think ya know a person), what are some of your favorite fantastical creatures?
I guess I should amend my stance. I’m not a fan of generic dragons, because let’s face it, dragons have been done a lot. But give me a new take on dragons, and I’ll be happy to pick up the book. (Or I’ll be interested in them enough to write about them myself…) Mostly, though, I like fantastical creatures that don’t get used very often. Like… sphinxes. I’m kind of partial to sphinxes.
What’s a day of writing like in the shoes of Angela? Do you have any quirks/routines/rituals?
It’s a lot of multi-tasking, trying to eke words out of whatever time I have available. Normally I aim for a thousand words a day — although I’ve raised my goal to 2000 words a day while I try to finish the novel I’m working on now. (2000 words is definitely a stretch goal.) I’m rarely (rarely!) alone when I write. So, I’ve had to train myself over the years to be able to answer a kid’s question or get up to do something necessary, then get back to writing again. Also, I’m pretty good at ignoring noise. And Nerf darts. I get most of my writing done during my three-year-old’s afternoon nap and again at night after the little kids go to bed, but I also tend to write when I’m fixing dinner and sometimes I’ll edit the previous day’s writing while I’m eating breakfast and the little ones are watching PAW patrol and Sesame Street.
What’s the largest issue you face/have faced while writing?
Trying to balance writing with taking care of/homeschooling a large family. I actually stopped trying to write fiction for publication for a long time because I couldn’t figure out how to do that.
What caused you to return to the world of writing fiction?
Mostly it was my characters that drew me back. I had a moment where I looked at everything I had going on as the parent of a large family, and I told myself I was going to be a grownup and finally admit that the writing dream was better off dead. But the thought of never again interacting with all the characters in my head was too horrible to contemplate. So, I started out making tiny goals – like, I’ll just pull out my notebook every day and as long as I’m doing that, it counts. Eventually I worked back up to writing novels.
What’s the hardest scene you’ve ever written?
Writing my short story “Forget Me Not” (which was published in Strange Horizons a very long time ago) was really tough, because it’s about a mother who’s being asked to give up her child. But there were also a couple of very emotional scenes in my portal fantasy series, which I’m planning to revise in 2020 for future publication. In one of them, my main character and his best friend are sharing a cup of coffee after a very traumatic event. I was fine writing it, and then I got to the end, closed my laptop, and immediately started to bawl. So, I guess the scene wasn’t hard to write, but it was definitely hard on me emotionally.
Do you find that you tend to place yourself in your characters’ shoes when writing these difficult, emotional scenes?
I always try to be in my characters’ shoes no matter what the scene, but for the big emotional scenes, I think it really becomes a matter of me trying to translate my own experiences into what would it feel like to be this person and have this happen to me? What event or feeling in my own life can I compare it to? But in a very real way, the more I write about my characters, the more they become like good friends, too. I usually know that a piece of plot is going to be really powerful when it drops into my head, and I say, “Oh, no, but that will be AWFUL.” So, at the same time that I’m very emotionally invested in these people and it hurts me when they hurt, on the other hand I’m also actively looking out for those instances when things go wrong because that’s how you build a story that pulls people forward. Maybe I’ll cry when I’m done, but those are the times I know I’ve got something good, too.
What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written?
I can’t actually remember my typos, but I think there was something about someone lying in a couch with his feet sticking out, instead of lying on it…
Is there one particular book that you hold dearest to your heart? If so, has it played a part in guiding your writing career?
That’s tough. I’m not sure I hold ONE book that dearly, but there are some authors who have really influenced me – Guy Gavriel Kay, Diana Gabaldon, Robin Hobb, Robin McKinley, Barbara Hambly, and CJ Cherryh probably chief among them. (I really cheated on this question, didn’t I?)
If you could shadow one author for a day, who would you choose, and why?
Another tough question. Probably C.J. Cherryh, especially back in the 80’s and early 90’s. She’s been so prolific throughout her career, writing consistently excellent stories. I’d like to go back in time to watch her write the Morgaine Cycle or The Fortress series, which are my favorites… although I also loved Downbelow Station and the Rusalka books.
You’re walking down a dimly lit alley, and out of the corner of your eye you see movement in the shadows. What do you do?
Well, I’m stupidly curious, so I’d probably stop and look around. But because I am also a mouse, I would convince myself it was a serial murderer even if it was a cat. Then I’d also tell myself I was being ridiculous, so I’d just walk VERY QUICKLY to the exit of the alley.
(This was more than you wanted to know.)
As a writer, what or who would you choose as your mascot?
See above – I’m a mouse. But if I could pick an animal companion, it would probably be a big, friendly, lazy dog who would lay at my feet and keep them warm and not slobber on me at all.
Are you currently working on any other projects that you can discuss?
I have a stand-alone Eterean Empire novella that I’m hoping to release to my mailing list in late fall/early winter of 2019 before releasing it for sale in 2020. But mostly I’m feverishly working on Book 2 in the Eterean Empire series right now (tentatively titled FOOL’S PROMISE). That one will probably be out in late spring of 2020. It started life as Book 1.5 and then I decided to make it a true sequel to FORTUNE’S FOOL, so I’ve had to push my release date back a bit… but I think taking a little more time will result in a better book.
Thanks so much for joining us, Angela!
Dark Ends will be available this winter.