We have an awesome guest today who has set up a positively fascinating world in their latest book.
Tell us about your book
Alara’s Call is a secondary-world fantasy with a feminist slant. The storyworld is based on 19th-century Europe and pits Alara’s democratic, egalitarian country against one that is a patriarchal monarchy.
Alara is a cleric whose father, the prime minister, entangles her in his political machinations. This puts her in a position to prophesy to world leaders about how Alara’s God expects Her people to be governed.
I absolutely love it. Super fascinating premise. Now, no writing comes without its obstacles. What is the hardest part of the writing process/writing this book?
The hardest part of the writing process for me is developing an engaging plot. I tend to get very vivid impressions of the characters and setting, and little idea what the story will be. Fortunately a colleague put me in touch with Jeff Gerke, who taught me how to use what I know about my characters to put together a plot that fits them.
Jeff’s book Plot versus Character contains a lot of that teaching. I highly recommend it, since it’s designed to help both character-first writers like me and plot-first writers who struggle with developing realistic characters.
I'm a character-focused writer, too, so I totally get the struggle. However, everyone has a favorite scene, no matter whether they start with characters or plot. Favorite scene to write?
Well, I can’t share that without major spoilers. Suffice it to say it’s the big scene at the end where everything comes to a head and the villain is at his worst and the heroes are at their best.
OK, fair enough. Favorite character?
Without a doubt, always, General Rariden. He is Alara’s mentor. He’s loosely based on Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. If Alara’s Call were a film, the general would be played by Harrison Ford.
Rariden retired from the army long ago, but everyone still calls him “General.” He’s a war hero who was later elected prime minister, after which he became chancellor of a university.
My favorite scene with Rariden is when … I think I can share this without being too spoiler-y … Alara’s father scoffs at one of her prophetic messages, and Rariden grabs him and says, “Don’t. Argue. With her.” Yeah, her father backs down. He not foolish enough to disobey the general.
Isn’t it funny how often writers’ favorites are the secondary characters? I guess that’s because we don’t have to give them as many flaws, and we don’t have to put them through so much hardship.
I love that! Yes, please have Harrison play him. OK, last question. Advice for writers?
For many years I thought being a great writer meant writing great sentences. Yet you can write the most beautiful prose in the world and not have a story. Without relatable characters and an engaging plot, a book goes nowhere. So my advice to readers is to figure out whether character or plot is your weak spot, and work on strengthening that aspect of your writing.
Amazing and so insightful! Thank you so much for stopping by. Readers, check out this title, and keep up-to-date on the latest releases from Kristen.
Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. She’s a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection. She is also an anthology editor for Havok, a flash-fiction website that publishes two anthologies per year. Despite living in Florida, Kristen is an avid knitter. In the state that pioneered air conditioning, most sweaters are worn indoors.
Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.
A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.
But it’s a ruse.
The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.
But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace…by any means necessary.