Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read well enough to write her stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She especially loves dragons, storms, mountains, stars, forests, volcanoes, a whole lot of other things, and characters who can make you feel what they do (up to a point). When she’s not learning and exploring either her fantasy worlds or this one, she enjoys playing with visual art, among other things. She will always believe that kindness is stronger than hatred and that we will never be aware of all the magic in the world. She is the author of the Areaer and Kaarathlon settings.
CONNECT WITH RAINA
Welcome to SPFM, Raina! Since we already have your bio, describe yourself in three words.
Ah, these first two are hard! Believing Love Wins. That hardly describes myself, but it does describe something important, so it will have to do. I really can’t think of anything better.
Summarize your book, DragonBirth, using one gif.
If you could recommend three self-published books, which would you choose and why?
The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke! I reviewed this one on my blog. It’s historical fiction, so not my genre, but it was awesome! Her character building is so true. Her characters are as consistent, inconsistent, stupid, and brilliant as real people. I especially loved Gregory. He’s a Prince – or should I say, was a Prince – who was exiled and disinherited because he only hung a few people instead of massacring an army that had surrendered, and he feels terrible about the people he hung. “Everything is a choice… and I made the wrong one.” His father, the King, explicitly told him to kill them all. I love how courageous and loyal and noble and loving he is towards his sister, Elizabeth, even though he can get short-tempered and angry and bitter, too, and can also be quite dense. And I loved how, instead of fighting for the throne, he realizes the bloodshed that would involve and he does not want anyone dying in his name, and in the end he finds peace in it. I also loved the deep relationship between the two siblings, Greg and Elizabeth.
Deathborn by CE Page. I don’t have as much to say about this one. It’s high fantasy, with very neat world-building and magic I’d love to learn more about (there’s a sequel). Oh my goodness, the characters felt so real and unforgettable! I found it a really easy read, too. I especially loved one of the side characters, Declan. It was almost like he was really present.
Breaker by Amy Campbell. The pegasi are awesome and cool. I love Emrys and his relationship to Blaise. The main character is asexual, and it is nice to see more characters that way. To see that I’m not the only one who wants to read and write about characters who are that way. Blaise has such terrific magic, but he just wants to bake cakes and have a peaceful life, but he’s also so loyal and kind-hearted and willing, eventually ready, to do whatever is necessary to protect what he loves and cares about. Can I say I wished there was more of him and Emrys? Also, Jack is a complicated character with a really heart-touching past, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in book two, Effigest. Actually, these are all firsts in a series and I’m looking forward to the sequels to all of them!
What is your favorite part, and your least favorite part of self-publishing?
I write what I want when I want how I want. I publish it the same way. The standard of perfection is my own (and, admittedly, that gets higher and higher). I suppose my least favorite part is probably the marketing. I’m pretty sure I am not any good at it. I hate formatting, too, but the degree to which I’m involved in everything else – it might be tedious and frustrating at times, but I wouldn’t want it to be otherwise.
How do you approach worldbuilding?
There are several elements to how I worldbuild. One involves imagination and inspiration. An example of this is the Greater Aravin Mountains. I was fascinated by plate tectonics and the formation of mountain ranges and my imagination got involved, changed the images, exaggerated some of them, and gave me the Greater Aravin Mountains: a range where one plate rides up another, but magic sustains and guides and otherwise affects the interaction, resulting in impossibly high peaks and an almost sheer face on one side. Sometimes, the imagination is even more central and the inspiration is so far or slight I may not be aware of it; it might be a single word somewhere, or a dream, or a forgotten daydream. The other approach is very character-based. I learn about the world through my characters. Sometimes, these are characters I’ll never write about and no one will ever learn about, but often these are the main characters themselves. This means I often know little more about what is going on than the character or the reader (though sometimes I know a lot more than the character, if not the reader, since I know through other characters as well). Sometimes I might know far less than the character, if the character does not show me things that aren’t relevant to her story. This means my cultures, myths, and situations often have a great deal more complexity that I, personally, would be capable of creating if I just brainstormed it. Also, there is very little that is set in stone – that I know for sure – until I write where a character encounters or experiences it. An example of this latter approach includes a fairytale Silmavalien tells Minth or the instructions Lexamarian gives Silmavalien. When I wrote that passage, all I knew was what Lexamarian said. I didn’t know which instructions she had right and which she had got mixed up, but as Silmavalien learned and experienced more of the world I learned.
These are the two umbrella approaches. There’s a lot of variation within each one and a lot of blending and melding between the two, where it’s impossible to tell what elements are from which approach or which approach is dominant. It’s more like a spectrum, and these are the two ends of the spectrum.
What’s the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote so much, some of it pretty good all things considering, some of it garbage, most of it probably both, that I don’t even have a chance at remembering what the first one was. I’d probably been story-telling and making-up naturally and instinctively since before I could write. Two stand out to me though, and I don’t know for sure which was first.
One was something like Pern fanfiction, but also not, since I changed the world around a bit. It was probably the first longer story I wrote with any coherency … well, I’m not sure how to describe what it had that I don’t think any of the earlier ones had, but a sort of rhythm or pattern of plot and worldbuilding and character development that came across in the writing instead of remaining only in my head. It was where I first started developing the Dragon Keeper/Dragon Mother idea (though I’m not sure I was calling it that yet), and it was about a girl who Impressed a queen who was green instead of gold along with several other dragons, and they were fighting Cloud instead of Thread, and I remember there was a cave and a jungle.
The other was a short story – two pages. This one I wish I still had, but I did not keep everything I wrote. It was about a princess who went out with her warriors to kill a dragon who was preying on her villagers, and she became the Dragon-Slayer.
When did you start writing?
I was about eight when reading suddenly came together for me (I’m dyslexic) and I could read everything. That was when I really got into writing, since it’s rather hard to write when one can’t even read most things, let alone spell! Not that I could spell for a long time, but it didn’t matter much as long as I could read what I wrote.
What’s your process for creating fully fleshed out characters?
I see them. I feel them. And I let them choose. I never force my characters, and if I don’t know what they think or do next, I always wait for them to show me. I know that can sound trite, but it’s my experience. I never base them on real people. I feel like basing a character on real people would not work for me, since I don’t know other people perfectly, not even myself, not the way I have to feel my characters to write them. Indeed, I never base a character on anything at all. They just come to me, and they often show me aspects of themselves I would never have dreamed going into it. They show me thoughts and ways of thinking I had never imagined, or at least experienced, before. I know what I need to know, and often enough very little more, though sometimes what I need to know is more than what I tell the reader (for one thing, communication is limited; I can almost never describe exactly what a character thinks or feels, though sometimes I can get pretty close, or maybe it is that sometimes I don’t have as perfect of an understanding; I don’t know).
There’s also something about the names. Occasionally I choose a word-based name, and often a name that fits my sense of the linguistic and cultural environment, but the name is usually so much more. It describes the character to me with a subtleness and exactitude no word can ever do. It is as if it is a word that means exactly that character – all she is, all she was, all she will be, all she could be – a word that I learn better throughout the story, but that always carries each new development, each new thought. The name contains the pattern of the character and her personality. Often, names are how I keep my characters straight (I have so many of them and write so many novels at once), and all I have to do to get myself into a character in order to write him, in order to get a sense of who he is, how he thinks, what he does, is to think his name. All right, that last is an oversimplification. As I said, sometimes there’s a lot of waiting involved, and sometimes there’s mood involved, too, but it does feel like that often.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the most common trap for an aspiring writer is to have another goal in mind that to write or communicate one’s own vision, or to be in a hurry to produce something ‘good’. Writing is a form of art – at least, if we’re talking about fiction – and thinking about art as good or bad isn’t really the mindset of art. Art is best when the artist enjoys making it – when it’s made to the artist’s vision. Do the best you can to convey the story you want to tell, but don’t even worry about whether or not you’re doing a good enough job of it. Just focus on the story and tell it as well as you can, and don’t worry if you have to try twenty times, but also don’t let anyone tell you that your first try can’t be perfect.
What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written?
I’ve no idea. I don’t keep all my typos in a document rated by funniness. But I did just write that someone was stroking his bread (loaf of bread) when I meant to write he was stroking his beard (that grows on his face). Obviously, I fixed it. It’s probably not the funniest one, but I do ask you to imagine a person stroking a loaf of bread while casually having a conversation with another person. It certainly made me laugh.
Give a shoutout to a fellow author.
I’ll definitely give a shoutout to CE Page. Deathborn was pretty awesome, and I’m going to read Brightling, but it looks like she and her novels don’t get a lot of attention.
And if anyone wants to know what my absolutely favorite novel is, this author doesn’t need a shoutout, but it’s The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.
About DragonBirth (Return of the Dragonriders #1)
In a world where dragons are considered demons and Dragonriders are hunted and killed as witches…
A devout village-girl, Silmavalien, meets a dragon hatchling and discovers a love she could never have dreamed. At the same time, her world is ripped apart as she discovers the gods she has worshiped and everything she has ever been taught or believed is a monstrous lie. Not knowing what to believe – or even if she can trust her engaged, Noren, with her new secret – she must find a way to care for herself and her dragon, Minth, in a wild and hostile world, a world which only grows stranger as the days pass.