1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I have always written. My oldest extant work is an illustrated retelling of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ from when I was four. There aren’t many words, but from the pictures done entirely in thick red marker I gather it was some sort of feminist take. I wrote a lot of stories throughout grade school, and even started a novel (which I’m hoping has been lost). I still had the urge to write fiction in university but lacked the time. I dribbled out a few abandoned starts during my time fronting rock bands in the UK and Vancouver, but my creative energy was mostly used up with songwriting, and after that creating human life. It wasn’t until my youngest daughters were about three that I found the Hour Stories workshop by Dale Adams Segal and fiction started to flow again.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
My family. Motherhood, and the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, are the heart of the Allaigna’s Song Trilogy, and particularly of the first book, Overture. The first line of the book “If you walk down the grand staircase of Castle Osthegn you will see a family portrait,” is pretty much exactly how I orignally wrote it. I had this image of the portrait and the tension between mother, daughter, father, and brother visible in the strokes of the painting. The rest came from there.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I don’t really have a message for readers. My characters take on a life of their own, and I write for them. I just hope that readers enjoy visiting my characters’ lives as much as I do, and find moments that resonate with them.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
It’s an easy genre for me to write. My abandoned PhD thesis was on Arthurian Romance, which is essentially high fantasy, and I read a LOT of fantasy in my youth. Ironically, I very seldom pick up a fantasy novel now, and my current work-in-progress is historical fiction. Perhaps when I’ve released the final Allaigna novel I will be able to read fantasy again.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
That’s an easy one — it would be Irdaign, Allaigna’s grandmother. I’d be tempted to ask her about the future, but I know she wouldn’t answer, so instead I’d pick her brains about herbal lore and animal husbandry. And maybe ask her to sing a song.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I suppose Facebook, though I find its constant changing of algorithms and interfaces incredibly annoying. I occasionally get bouts of Twitter use, but its a bit like a firehose. I’ve resisted Instagram until recently because of their insistence on posting from a phone, but I’ve found a workaround, so we’ll see how that goes. You can find me on all three platforms as @jmlandels.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Divide your workday into three parts: reading, writing, and marketing. By workday, I mean the amount of time you devote to your writing career, whether that’s eight hours a day or two hours a week. Try to do at least something in each of these areas every week. Reading is important because it trains your brain to write well. Read good writing and bad writing, and writing both inside and outside your genre. You’ll learn something from all of these. Write, even if it’s bad writing; and keep writing because it’s like a muscle you need to train. Be prepared to discard a lot of what you’ve written. That’s okay — it’s practice. And marketing — ugh. Most writers hate it, but it’s a necessary evil. If you’re just starting out writing it’s still not to early to start building your social network. Work on relationships and actually being social on social media. That way, when you have a book ready to release to the world you’ll have friends who’ll help you spread the word.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I’m editing like mad to release Allaigna’s Song: Chorale in late 2021. I’ve also been releasing bits of my historical novel The Shepherdess, about a shepherdess-turned-spy in 17th century France, in installments in Pulp Literature magazine. You’ll find the most recent adventure of Toinette in PL issue 28, Autumn 2020, just released now! And when I’m not writing or editing, I’m riding horses, swinging swords, and teaching mounted combat in person and online with my new school, Academie Cavallo (academiecavallo.ca). Do I do too much? Yes, probably.
About the Author
For the full series of sword fighter portraits, please visit http://www.markfeenstra.com/swordplay
JM Landels divides her professional time between writing, editing, drawing, and teaching people to swordfight from horseback. She has no hobbies, since they all tend to turn into professions.