Noor Al-Shanti likes to write epic length fantasy and science fiction novels, but hates writing author bios.
CONNECT WITH NOOR
Welcome to SPFM, Noor! Since we already have your bio, describe yourself in three words.
Writes epic fantasy.
Summarize your book, Children of the Dead City, using one gif.
I think you’ve managed to come up with something even harder for an author to do than a synopsis or a book blurb. So congrats on that.
First, here’s actual live footage of my brain overheating because of this task:
And now, to summarize a 375K word novel into a GIF…
If you could recommend three self-published books, which would you choose and why?
Just three? Well, it’s a good thing some of K. S. Villoso’s books are trad pub now so I can mention her and also three more! 🙂
The Eagle’s Flight by Daniel E. Olesen
This has rich world-building that reminds me of Tolkien’s. There are also amazingly well-written battles, political plotting and double crossing, and great characters. If you love High Fantasy this book – and the rest of the series – is for you. I’ve read it twice and loved it both times!
Shimmerdark by Sarah Mensinga (and her other book Currently)
This book is an adventure-filled journey in a steampunk-like setting that had great uses of magic and a really cool way of integrating that and using it in technology. What I loved most about it was that it deals with issues of injustice and social change as the main character discovers how the society she’s in works and realizes there are wrong things happening. For those who love Hayao Miyazaki’s movies it gave me a Castle in the Sky vibe.
Between the Shade and the Shadow by Coleman Alexander
This book had a unique non-human POV, great characterization and personal stakes, and some wonderful world-building. The way the use of magic is woven through the action scenes is really cool and I loved the forest setting and how important it was to the story.
What is your favorite part, and your least favorite part of self-publishing?
My favourite part is the community that I’m slowly discovering and how willing everybody is to help others and share the things they’ve learned. I really like doing things myself, so self-pub works for me, but that would have been so much more difficult, and probably near impossible, without all the advice and knowledge-sharing and support of the self-pub community. This includes other authors, but also all the bloggers and reviewers who take the time to share the love of reading and shout about the books they loved and bring books to a larger audience!
My least favourite part is the same as everyone else’s, I expect. How hard it is to get your books noticed so people will realize they exist and consider checking them out!
How did you know you wanted to write in this genre?
I knew I wanted to write fiction before this point, but within the fantasy genre it started when I first finished reading Lord of the Rings for the first time, just before the movies came out. I spent a while looking at the folded maps in the back of the book and then, when I closed the book, I knew I wanted to have that same immersive experience with a world again so I got a piece of paper and started drawing a map. I’m still writing stories in that same world.
How do you approach worldbuilding?
I do my world-building through story. I’ve got the map of the fantasy world I write in and I jot down any random ideas that come to mind in a notebook (or anywhere if my notebook isn’t with me when the idea hits!) and whenever an idea or a collection of ideas gets big enough – or nags me enough – I sit down and write that story out. As more of these stories are written, whether they are novels or short stories or novellas, they help me illuminate and build the different parts of the map and build that world up.
For example, I have a short story about a character, Tyree, whose city is being attacked by shape-shifters. At the time when I wrote it I decided where the story takes place, where the shape-shifters were coming from, and I vaguely knew what made them attack (they wanted revenge on the “High Lords” of Tyree’s kingdom who had wronged them in the past – but back then I didn’t know exactly how they’d wronged them, it wasn’t really relevant to Tyree’s story). When I wrote the story Tyree discovered an interesting way to use one of the magical powers that some of her people had and they were able to use it to survive the shape-shifter attacks.
So after writing this story the shape-shiftes, that magic style, and this potential wrong that had been done to the shape-shifters in the past became part of my world. Now, many years after writing that short, these elements are all going to form a huge part of the new novel series I’m writing which focuses on Sorcerers, magic, and in which the history between the shape-shifters and the High Lords is going to be a major plot point. By writing that short story years ago I helped build the world in which my new series is going to take place and I’ve been able to draw on all those little elements from the story – and from other stories I wrote – to plan out this new one!
It’s so much fun when all these little elements of world-building from other stories click together and a new adventure begins!
If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick and what would it be about?
I do this all the time.
First of all, many of my “side-characters” end up becoming much more prominent by the end of a novel I’m writing because I usually write multi-POV epic fantasy. My novel Children of the Dead City started with two POVs, an eight year-old boy and his mother who get separated right before their city gets taken over by Sorcerers. By the end of the book there are so many more main characters that are just as important as those two. People they met along the way. People they formed friendships with. People who become important to the larger story of the struggle to free the city from the Sorcerers. Most of these other characters weren’t meant to be main characters in my initial outlines, they just became interesting enough that they imposed themselves on the story.
And because of my world-building style of exploring my world through different stories I often take minor characters from one story and make them heroes of a totally new one. For example, in Nyarai: Traveler of the Circle the main character meets a pessimistic little kid who can’t stop making fire with his hands. Well, eventually I just had to give him his own story, so the journal of Iro IronGlove was born. He was given a journal to write in, but doesn’t really see the point, so he only writes the occasional short little observation about his adventures and they randomly started appearing on this account on twitter (https://twitter.com/IIronglove) as if by magic. 🙂
Basically, I’m always having fun exploring the stories of my side-characters!
Tell us what lies ahead for you.
Right now I’m planning a 7-book series focused on the magic-users in my fantasy world. As I plan out the main events of the series (meaning, as I wait for the ideas to coalesce and build up) I’m writing some tangentially-related shorts that are helping me get a clearer view of some of the main events in the series from other perspectives.
Over the course of the next year I’m hoping to publish two novellas or short novels. One of them is about the fall of a Kingdom and those who were there on the day it fell. It’s very intense in terms of both action and emotion. The second one is pure fun and it originated from a vivid dream I had a few months back. It follows the story of a young woman who has to flee, along with a few others from her village, before they can be captured for their powers and she has lots of thrilling adventures. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but I think it’s the most adventurous and fun story I’ve written so far.
After that, I may do a much shorter story about a magical spy and then, hopefully, by that time I’ll be ready to dive into the 7-book magic-filled series in earnest!
About Children of the Dead City
A Mad Sorcerer.
A weak King.
A defenseless city.
When Dargoth is kidnapped from his mother’s arms he is forced to come face to face with the forces that threaten his Kingdom. As he struggles to reunite with his mother, Dargoth decides that he must do something to help the people of his city stand against the Sorcerers. He throws himself into the heart of a rebellion led, not by kings or army commanders, but by the children whose lives were upended just like his. This is their story, the epic tale of the Children of the Dead City.