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Friday, May 05, 2017

Author Interview : Arlo Mercia, author of ''The Lygons of Fraith : Lygon Island – The Rock Ring''

Arlo Mercia
Read up, the Interview with Arlo Mercia, author of 'The Lygons of Fraith: Lygon Island – The Rock Ring'. This interview is a wonderful one. In this 'tale' of an interview :), she tells us how the fantasy came about and the characters came about, what the kind of research that was put into this book, what the challenges were, who the authors are that she takes inspiration from, and what book is coming from her next. So, it was fascinating, Folks...
How did ‘The Lygons of Fraith: Lygon Island – The Rock Ring’ happen? What is the research that has gone into it?

In January 2015, my partner and I spent a week at Shoal Bay in New South Wales, Australia. It is a beautiful wide bay where the mist sometimes rolls in from the sea. I had just finished editing my mystery novel, ‘Doctor God’ and Rob lightly suggested, ‘Why don’t you try writing fantasy?’

I enjoyed reading the occasional fantasy book, but had never thought of writing that genre because I had a fairly stereotyped view of it as being about good vs evil and heroic quests. If I was going to write fantasy I would need to do it in a way that was true to me.

I had recently survived several difficult years at work, when there were many budget cuts, staff were laid off, and programs I was working on were axed. My colleagues and I had many discussions about the effects of poor management – that ignorance and incompetence could potentially do more danger than evil. I decided to bring this experience to my fantasy world.

I also wanted a new character; not just people and dragons. I have
pet cats, so it was natural for me to create lygons, who are beautiful reptilian cats. I also added in miniature dragons called geflars who are very cheeky and provide much of the humour in the books.

So, within a few days I had a fantasy world to write about, and enough stories to keep me going for many years. I love writing this series – it flows so easily that sometimes I think it is creating itself.

Many of the plants and animals in the land of Fraith are unique. To create them I tend to look at the Latin names for existing, similar animals and use that as starting point. 

I have been careful to make sure that each of the human tribes (myrids), and dragon families (gazes) have distinctive types of names so it is easy to identify to which group an individual belongs. I take care to be accurate, and enjoyed researching about life on a sailing ship. I now know more about sails, ropes and bilges than I ever expected!

How do you think your book is different from everyone else’s?

It is not a series about a heroic age where there is good vs evil, battles, curses, prophesies and quests.

My series deals with a world that is still fantasy, but in some ways is more familiar. As one of my reviewers said, it shows an '...understanding of the escapist components of fantasy, as well as the commentary it can provide on our own world by holding a mirror to our political and social issues.’ (Full review here at Smashwords). 

There is no unpleasant violence, as it is not in my nature to write about that. I have aimed to make it intriguing and humorous. It can be enjoyed by anyone over about 12 years old.

The main characters are the lygons (reptilian cats) and geflars; and as you rightly pointed out, they carry the story. Humans and dragons are secondary characters.

Also, many fantasy lands are set in the northern hemisphere (eg George RR Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’, Robin Hobbs, JRR Tolkien etc), so to be
Robin Hobb
different I have set the land of Fraith in the southern hemisphere. It is colder to the south. Fraith has quite a warm climate, but because the cats and dragons are reptilian they still need cosy fires at night.

How would you relate the life of Myrra’s and Aidon’s to lives today?
There are people like Aidon (Royal of the Salt Pride lygons) in positions of power today; leaders who are vain, obsessed with their own importance, and lack an understanding of how things really work. 

Potentially they can do a lot of damage. The Lygon Island trilogy looks at how far that damage may spread – some of it very obvious, and much of it subtle.

The tragedy of Myrra (abdicated ruler of the Salt Pride) is that she understands how things work and is very competent, but she is no longer in charge. She must find creative ways to work around the disastrous situation and solve the many problems that Aidon has created, without him realising.

There are examples of this situation in global politics, but also in many workplaces.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing this book?

I love the way the characters and stories in this series seem to have a life of their own. The first time, I wrote dialogue for Eea, the thunder-shell, her voice in my head was so deep and resonant it was as though she was in the room with me, and I was in awe of her.

Another memorable moment was when the Healer said to Jay, ‘... now there was an unlikely chief come to power in strange circumstances.’ The words just appeared on the page and surprised me; it then became a major plot-line in the next book, ‘The Undersea’.

I also love the thought of my books bringing joy to my readers. I hope they provide a pleasurable respite, and make you smile, or laugh, or think about the world differently, and give you something to talk about with friends and family.

Your second book is released. What are you planning on writing next, in a different context? When would you see that released?

‘The Undersea’ is the second book in the Lygon Island trilogy, and was recently released. I am well underway on the third book, ‘The Rift’. After that there will be many more books about the land of Fraith.

Further stories will be about what happened between the geflars and the dragons that caused the dragons’ vendetta; the sorrow of Isparag the dragon that is seeping down the mountain; Fintal’s unlikely courting of Royalette Cephara.

One day, I will do a fully illustrated volume… It will keep me busy for many years to come, and I hope that as readers come to know and love the land of Fraith they will follow me in this adventure.

Is there an author you take inspiration from?

Annie Proulx
I have always read very widely. When I was young, I remember The Lord of the Rings’, taking up much of a summer holiday. In recent years, I have read most of Robin Hobb, and was inspired by the way she weaves her different stories together. John Steinbeck’s ‘The Pastures of Heaven’ is a set of short stories that are cleverly interconnected. I admire Annie Proulx’s, use of expressive detail.

And I spend a lot of time reading up on current affairs as they happen all around the world, and developments in science and technology – as inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.

Which book are you reading currently?

Writing fantasy has made me more interested in reading it. The current bedside book is ‘Boneland’ by Alan Garner. He has two earlier novels ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and ‘The Moon of Gomrath’. ‘Boneland’ picks up the plot a few decades later. They are reminiscent of Tolkien; set in England and based on European mythology with magic, wizards and elves etc. The atmosphere is quite sinister.

I recently finished ‘Little Big’ by John Crowley, which is an innovative story about a complex family and a house that is an interface between realms.

I try to put reviews up on Goodreads, when I have time.

What do you do on a day to day basis, besides writing stories and illustrating for the stories?

I am a senior teacher at the local high-school, and that is a very busy job. Writing and illustrating really does take up most of my spare time, as it is what I love to do most.

My other passion is photography, particularly infra-red landscape photography. My favourite infra-red images at first glance look like a black and white photo, but are unusual enough to make you see the landscape in a different way. You can see my photos at https://www.arlettephotography.com/

I enjoy travelling, especially to places warmer than Tasmania, as it is quite cold where I live. Travelling is when I do most of my photography. I keep fit with yoga and gym to counteract the hours spent writing, and I sometimes relax by cooking… anything with chocolate…

You can  Read the Review, too and Buy the Book, here as well.
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