Today we have Eresse over at the blog. I reviewed her latest book here. She talks about er epic fantasy series the Chronicles of Ylandre, the characters and her writing. Give her a warm welcome!
Hi Eressë. Welcome to the blog. Can you introduce yourself to the readers?
Hello Larissa. I hail from Southeast Asia, am female and married with three sons and one four-legged, bushy-tailed daughter. I honed my writing on The Lord of the Rings fan fiction for several years before dipping my toes in digital publishing in 2009 with the release of Sacred Fate, Book One of my fantasy series Chronicles of Ylandre. My pen name Eressë comes from the elvish language J.R.R. Tolkien created for his magnum opus and I chose it because I like the way it sounds and it has the same meaning as my nickname.
I honestly don’t know where Chronicles of Ylandre sprang from but my love for historical and fantasy romance was a great influence. It was there all along when I wrote LotR fan fiction. I explored themes and storylines that intrigued me. But I only used ideas that were plausible within the existing canon. Ideas that weren’t possible and therefore left unexplored could only find a home in an original work.
Admittedly, my socio/political background infuses the series, e.g. the class divisions, the colonial history of my country, social and political unrest, the Roman Catholic flavor of Veresian worship, etc. Chronicles of Ylandre is the result of my imagination, but many of the settings and cultures are founded on actual history and/or personal experience.
You chose to make the world of Ylandre duel-gendered, without any females. How did you come to write the world this way?
Well, it came down to a desire to write love stories that did away with the gender divide and its inherent problems. I didn’t want to delve into the usual issues often faced by non-heterosexual characters either yet to ignore them would be disrespectful to the LGBT community as well as implausible. Hence a hermaphroditic race from an alien world.
Why did I choose to create male androgynes? The profound answer is that I thought it would be interesting to explore relationships between members of the default dominant gender wherein as far as sexuality is concerned, the lovers are equal and conflicts are due to cultural, economic or political differences. It’s a little similar to bringing two alpha personalities together and hoping their natural competitiveness doesn’t derail the romance.
The shallow answer is, aesthetically speaking, I find the male form highly attractive and easy to write about with passion even if that form is endowed with female reproductive organs. That’s because those are concealed as opposed to male genitalia, which protrude and are therefore visible. I simply can’t picture a woman with external male organs and find it appealing in any way.
But that’s just me and only goes to show the limitations of my imagination with regards this subject.
The mentor/ward relationship turned love story is an age-old romance trope. And I think its popularity stems from the fascination readers have with the concept of two protagonists, one young and relatively innocent and usually in a position of need or vulnerability and the other older, oftentimes wiser, perhaps a benefactor of sorts, bridging the differences between themselves and falling in love. If well written, mentor/ward romances are immensely appealing and I readily admit to enjoying them either as reader or writer. And as a writer, I like the challenge of making such relationships believable and acceptable.
The stories are for the most part centered on the royal family and the immediate royal family. Will you have a story in the world of Ylandre that moves away from the royal family?
I named the series Chronicles of Ylandre, but I could just as well have called it Chronicles of the Essendris. The main characters being scions of House Essendri and therefore related to each other is what ties all the stories in the series together. Every couple has to include a member of the Royal House. One book however will feature a non-Ylandrin protagonist.
How many books will there be in the series or will the Chronicles be ongoing?
As of now, there will be fifteen books in all. However, there are two stories I’m thinking of combining in which case there will be only fourteen books.
Time for a funny question: You are transported to an unfamiliar world. Pick three characters that are transported with you to this world and why.
Only three? That’s hard to narrow down. I’m assuming you mean main characters from the published books. Well, if survival is the goal, probably Rohyr, Eiren and Yandro. Rohyr isn’t just a ruler, he’s also a diplomat and strategist. Eiren is a gifted physician and Yandro is a scrapper who’s survived and thrived against all odds. Plus all three are superb fighters and good conversationalists. So I’d have all bases covered with them around.
Which book in the series was the hardest to write?
Of the published books, I’d say Heartstrings because it was so emotionally draining. Some scenes were so angst-ridden they were actually painful to write. But the book I’m currently writing, Shield Mate, will probably come a close second if not tie with Heartstrings for that dubious title. I’m really struggling with it but for entirely different reasons.
Which book in the series was your greatest accomplishment?
That would be the first one, Sacred Fate. It started everything after all. Besides, I wasn’t sure any publisher would be interested in what I thought was a rather outlandish concept so you can just imagine my disbelief and relief when it got published.
Can you give us a fun fact/tidbit about one of your books?
I don’t know if one can consider this a fun fact but By Chance Met and Cross Purposes were loosely based on an original story I submitted for publication in the days before digital books. Needless to say, it wasn’t accepted but I kept the manuscript. It was a somewhat Cinderellaesque Regency romance featuring a worldly wise, aristocratic hero and a young and virginal heroine and the obstacles they had to overcome before they got their HEA. I also created a cast of male characters who were all somehow related to the hero—much like how Rohyr Essendri is related to one main character in every book.
Another tidbit covers more than one book. I had already decided on the characters from the start—who would get their own books and who would remain in supporting roles. But in the writing, a few secondary characters grew more attractive than the protagonists they were supposed to support, as did their backgrounds and possible stories. Hence the elevation of characters who weren’t originally the romantic protagonists of their respective books.