Her novel, Elfland, published by Tor, won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award in the Fantasy Novel category for 2009. Her latest book, The Dark Arts of Blood is the long-awaited, brand-new fourth book in the much-loved Blood Books series.
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
Almost as soon as I could hold a pencil and form words, I started writing little fairy stories and animal stories. I think it came partly from my dad, who was a keen writer and very inventive – he used to make up tales for me at bedtime – and partly from being an only child. I was introverted and didn’t enjoy the rough and tumble of other children, but I loved reading. If I finished a book and wasn’t happy with the way it ended, or if I wanted the magic to continue, I would automatically try to write something of my own. The results might not be very good, but it was fun trying! And that carried on into my teens until I managed to produce an entire novel. I’ve never grown out of writing down my daydreams! I remember being very embarrassed, at about the age of twelve, when a teacher asked if anyone in class had tried to write a novel, and I was the only person who put her hand up. Of course, later I met lots of people who write and now most of my friends are authors, so it doesn’t seem a weird activity any more.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing, and does it come in useful for your stories?
Reading, obviously, and I like craft activities such as making Tiffany-style stained glass, jewellery, needlepoint and so on – anything involving lots of colour. I walk in the countryside as often as I can, and I like yoga and Tai Chi too. Walking especially is great for thinking time, or rather for switching off the brain, because that’s often when the best ideas come. Conventions, where you meet lots of other authors, friends, and people of like mind, can be very inspirational and energising (although sometimes overwhelming to a hermit like me). My husband Mike loves to travel, and although I rarely get much work done, it can provide great inspiration for settings. For example, I loved Boston, so I had great fun setting part of The Dark Blood of Poppies (the third in my Blood Wine series) in such a fascinating historic city.
Name your superpower and why that one?
I would love the power of healing with a touch. Human beings are so vulnerable, and there’s far too much illness and suffering around us. How wonderful to be able to make it stop.
Your work space: chaos or calm?
A bit of both. I shut myself away in my tiny study, and I can see greenery out of the window, so that’s calm. However I tend to be untidy – I swear I don’t know where the piles of paper and books appear from! I should declutter more often, but it cuts into writing time.
Who has been your favourite character from your book/series and why?
I have to say Karl from A Taste of Blood Wine (and the whole Blood Wine series). I started the first book in the early 1980s as an escape from a difficult time in my life. It was published after much rewriting in the 1990s, then recently reissued by Titan Books. In the meantime I’ve written a number of short stories, plus a new Blood Wine novel, so Karl has been with me for a long time now. I’ve long been fascinated – very long before more recent vampire crazes – by the idea of the vampire as a creature who is alluring as well as dangerous, and I wondered how the story would work out if someone (in this case my heroine, Charlotte) could get to know this beautiful, remote, mysterious man, rather than just staking him through the heart! Karl is the epitome of that. He’s not a ‘good’ vampire, but he does try to live by his own moral code, such as it is. Charlotte has to dig down a long way through his calm, enigmatic surface, through the dark, sinister blood-drinking side of him, to the human aspects and vulnerability beneath. So to me he’s an incredibly attractive, many-layered character and I love him for that.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
That’s a very hard question to answer and a very good one. I don’t think any idea should be out of bounds, but you have to give careful consideration as to whether you passionately want to write about it, and whether you can do justice to the subject matter. For example, I don’t think I would feel comfortable writing about disability. There are some highly emotive subjects where you really need to know what you’re talking about and have something important to say. Otherwise just leave it alone.
If you’re writing about something visceral like, let’s say, childbirth, the advantage of fantasy is that you can add a supernatural twist to events. In one of my early fantasies, A Blackbird in Amber, a character suffers a miscarriage in the middle of nowhere – but in my world the baby is helped to survive, because *sorcery*.
If not a writer then what?
Something artistic. I trained and worked as a graphic designer, and that’s extremely useful when it comes to understanding book layout and fonts and cover design and all that stuff. ‘Being a writer’ wasn’t an option when I left school, so I chose a practical, artistic skill, and I believe I made the right choice. I don’t know what else I could have done, except perhaps learn languages and become a translator… bit late to go back and change careers, though! At college and work, we did paste-up, illustration and everything by hand. No computers in those days. Now I really need to retrain myself in the use of the latest graphics software.
Conventions: when and where.
You could go to a convention every weekend, if you had the money and energy. Mike and I don’t attempt to go to everything these days. Usually we go to Eastercon, and occasionally Fantasycon or Novacon. We’ve also been to a handful of World Cons… Orlando Florida, Providence Rhode Island, Columbus Ohio… including some in London and Scotland. We prefer the smaller cons, because they seem friendlier. Worldcons can be so big that you can’t find anyone, or if you do there’s no time to talk because you’re both dashing in different directions!
Pitch your latest book to the world at large in 100 words.
If you love the glamour and decadence of the 1920s… If you prefer your vampires passionate, grown-up, and not afraid to be vampires… The Dark Arts of Blood offers sumptuous landscapes, silent movies, blood-lust, political intrigue and mystery.
Charlotte and Karl fall into danger as the sinister activist Godric Reiniger begins his rise to power. Meanwhile, fiery dancer Emil achieves his dream to partner legendary ballerina Violette Lenoir – until his forbidden desire for her becomes an obsession. Rejected, spiralling towards madness, he seeks solace with a mysterious beauty, Fadiya. But she too is a vampire, with a hidden agenda…
To find out more about Freda and her fiction visit her website HERE