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Interview: Terry Jackman, Author of ‘Ashamet, Desert-Born’

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author pic 1 Terry Jackman is really a Teresa, and married with kids. She’s not pretending to be a guy just for the book. Nobody, but nobody, calls her anything but Terry, so Terry is actually the most honest name to put on the cover.

To go with her two names she has two identities. In one she’s a mild-mannered lady who tutors children and lives in a pretty English village, called Lymm. (You can take a peek at that on www.lymmvillage.com, or its Wiki entry.)

In the other, she’s secretly on the committee of the British Science Fiction Association, coordinates all their online writers’ groups, writes a regular page for Focus magazine and reads submissions for Albedo One magazine in Ireland. Oh, and has been known to do some freelance editing.

When Ashamet goes public the two will finally collide. She suspects there’ll be some raised eyebrows so she’s stocking up on fortifying tea and biscuits – and lots of chocolate!

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Ashamet, Desert-Born. Tell us about it.

Loosely labelled a fantasy adventure, the story is set in a desert world where females are so rare that society has had to adapt accordingly; where Ashamet, its prince and warrior hero, is trying hard NOT to become its next false god, and where he’d love to know who’s trying to assassinate him and why. Oh, and a foreign slave has become a mystery he needs to solve, urgently, in order to preserve his own life.

Ashamet-CoverWhat was your inspiration for it?

Ashamet strode into my life because I was really annoyed by a fantasy I was reading. The writer made that prince so stupid. If he’d had an ounce of commonsense, let alone intelligence, the plot would have fallen apart long before the end of the book. The writer was treating characters like puppets to make the plot work, and it made me cross. (Of course, since that character quickly became unconvincing the story fell apart anyway. I never read another book from that writer.)

But suddenly, there stood Ashamet. Whatever else he was – and I’ll leave the readers to decide that – he wasn’t stupid. In fact at some points in the story he was very difficult to out-maneuver! And once he appeared his story wasn’t far behind

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

My biggest challenge has always been extreme shyness. I’ve managed to get it more or less under control but when it’s fiction it still rears its ugly head. I started out writing articles. They were commissioned in advance, and paid for, but it still took me several years to admit it to my family. Then several more years before I told them I was trying to write fiction too. Picture all those notebooks hurriedly pushed out of sight every time they walked in? I’m amazed I ever finished anything. To this day I still have trouble writing if any of my family are in the house! So that has to be my biggest writing challenge. If my husband didn’t play golf, and oh-so-casually mention what time he expects to be home again, I wouldn’t get much written. 

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I hope they’ll enjoy Ashamet’s adventures, and maybe tell me so. That would be great. I hope they’ll get as much fun out of meeting Ashamet, and Keril, as I did writing these two so-different characters, and that perhaps they’ll see something in the story about who we all are; how, consciously or not, we all present more than one face to the world. Even to ourselves? 

Did your book require a lot of research?

Um. I’ve visited some beautiful Moorish palaces and temples, mostly in Spain. (Anyone going there should definitely try to see the Alhambra in Granada). I did attend a lecture on swords. But apart from that…

The nearest I’ve been to a desert is probably Las Vegas. I’ve never ridden a camel, and only once ‘sat’ on a horse. And of course I’m not male, so apparently I shouldn’t even be trying to write fantasy, let alone warrior characters!

But then if we only wrote what we knew neither fantasy nor SF would exist at all? 

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

I listen, to my characters. For me, the most boring books are those that tick boxes and slavishly follow an initial outline. I think a good story is often organic; it grows and develops and finds new ambitions as its characters increase in depth. If you force them to stick to their original direction, that’s when the prince turns into an idiot? Happily mine often lead me to places I never dreamed of. 

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

I guess: it should fun, so enjoy it. If you don’t then don’t do it. If you intend to get published, accept that the ambition is a long-haul project, and a learning process. Starting a novel means you are writing. It doesn’t mean you are a writer. I didn’t feel like ‘a writer’ till a complete stranger told me how much they liked my writing, and it took a lot longer than that to feel like ‘an author’. 

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

The obvious things would be that Ashamet, Desert-Born is out May 30th, published in America but available anywhere thanks to Amazon, in paper or ebook format. I’d love to hear from people as to their reactions to the story. I blog, Terrytalk, at www.terryjackman.co.uk, where I talk mainly about other people’s books, usually those I’ve given four or five star ratings as a Netgalley reviewer. And I can also be found lurking in the depths of the British Science Fiction Association, which also has a website.

 

 

 

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.