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Interview With Author Vianne Max

Today I bring you an interview with author Vianne Max. Vianne writes fantasy. So, lets step into a world of magic.

Tell me about yourself

I was born in the Highlands of Scotland and grew up in Aotearoa/New Zealand in a family filled with adventurers, artists, creators, soldiers and pilots.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was a child. I learned to read and write at a very early age (thanks to my lovely mother, who was a teacher). Creating stories has always been a compulsion.

Do you have a day job? Does it inspire your writing in any way?

I am a high school English (and film studies) teacher, which definitely inspires aspects of my writing and vice versa. I love teaching creative writing, partially because students have such interesting ideas and it is a privilege to be able to help them find ways of expressing themselves. As I learn more about the writing craft through my own work, I can give them more insight, and through our discussions, new techniques can occur to me to use as well.

What do you like to read?

I particularly enjoy fantasy fiction, science fiction/speculative fiction, travelogues, magic realism and cookbooks. I also like to keep up with YA, middle grade and children’s picture books. My favourite authors tend to be the classics - Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, David Gemmel and Maurice Gee.

What drew you to your chosen genre?

Fantasy (or speculative) fiction is so rich and filled with possibilities. I find I can be at my most creative in this realm, as I thoroughly enjoy world-building, even down to costumes and food. I have a very visual mind, so tend to picture scenes (including soundtracks) when I’m writing. My father had stacks of FF and SciFi books around the house when I was growing up, so I suppose it was inevitable. :) Also, my extended family has a long love of epic fantasy stories and art, often painting fantastical murals on the walls of our houses.

Tell me about ‘Anahera – The Isle of Storms’

Anahera initially follows Isabella Mackay, a woman from our world who is pulled through the Anahera Gate on Midsummer’s Eve into the world of Hjaltland. She doesn’t speak the language and, unlike everyone else in the world, has no magic. I wanted to write female characters who were more like the women around me, having become a little disillusioned with the female characters I found in many speculative fiction stories. Many of my characters are inspired by friends and family, their attitudes and practical approaches to things. Anahera also explores themes of captivity, standing up to bullies, healing, and finding connection and community in difficult circumstances.

What inspired it?

The main characters and fragments of the world have been in my head since I was 16, and have essentially grown with me. It wasn’t until I moved to Shetland for my first teaching job that it all came together. I was walking my dog along the beach of Sandsound cove and I had a sudden rush of certainty that this is where the world of the story was set. From that point, the characters really resolved into being and the worldbuilding flowed constantly. I am very grateful to the place and the people around me. I have also travelled extensively, including backpacking throughout my twenties and thirties, so the people, architecture, food, clothing, music and so on feed constantly into my work. I was privileged to be allowed to grow up in Aotearoa/New Zealand and have huge appreciation for Māori culture. In Anahera, I wanted to include respectful homage to this in the form of the Windpyres.

What comes first for you, the plot, or the characters?

Characters. Absolutely. I have to inhabit each of them to understand them, what motivates them, what they want, how they react to things. When writing a scene (particularly with dialogue) I switch between characters, trying to imagine how they speak, their mannerisms etc, to make them as authentic and believable as possible. One of the challenges for me, however, is that stories tend to come out of me in separate scenes which are not in chronological order. This particular series may be up to 8 books long, and it’s been coming out of me in a random order. Stitching it all together is a bit of a challenge!

What does literary success look like to you?

As many people as possible enjoying the worlds and characters I create. When readers tell me they just want to step inside the world of Hjaltland, explore, hang out at The Mutinous Piglet pub or have crumpets and tea with Millie and Isabella in the Eyrie, that makes me so happy, because it means I’ve done my job. When they tell me that my descriptions of the food made them hungry, it’s a delight! On a side note, to have people like the stories enough to cosplay my characters in future would also be extraordinary. To me, reader enjoyment and engagement is the success.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I am putting the finishing touches on Book Two of the Isle of Storms, but I have a two other series projects I am working on, both set in the Highlands of Scotland where I am originally from. They are set in our world, but each with a different magical twist. As ever, tea and food as a means of connection and healing figure strongly.

What would your spirit animal be and why?

Although I haven’t been through the spirit animal process (an important indigenous rite), I have always been drawn to foxes and bears in particular. Foxes appear cute, floofy, and with a silly sense of humour but cannot be underestimated. They also have good survival skills and can adapt to new environments quickly. Travelling as I do, requires adaptability. This can also be seen in my main character, Isabella, who appears to just roll with the events that are thrown at her until she can reach a place of solitude where she can let go. I am also extremely protective of my loved ones, any children and the environment, hence the bear!

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Exploring more of the world, going for walks with my dogs, spending time with my beloved, having coffee and nibbly things with friends. I love learning new things, researching, and planning the next big adventure.

Thanks to Vianne for chatting with us on the blog. If you would like to check out Vianne's work, click on the links below.

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