Earlier this week, though it was technically last year, I posted the review for Dream Alchemist by Joanna Chambers. The lovely Ms. Chambers was gracious enough to agree to an interview after I read the book, because I was intrigued by the world and the characters. Now she is here and talks about the series.
Give a warm welcome to Joanna Chambers. The floor is hers!
Hi Joanna, welcome to BookWinked. We’re very excited to have you here. Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to be writing (gay) romance books?
Hello! I’m very excited to be here! I’m Joanna Chambers and I’ve been writing romance novels for a number of years, mainly historicals. My first two books were MF, then I moved into MM, really for no other reason than I’d become a passionate reader of MMs by that point, and I tend to want to write what I love to read.
Your new book Dream Alchemist, the first in the Somnus series, focuses on dreamwalker Bryn – who is more than he appears to be – and Laszlo, who has a sleep disorder, or so it appears. Can you tell us a bit about how this story came to be?
I was on holiday in the Lake District when I conceived the idea of dreamwalkers, and the dream world they operate in, Somnus. The idea consumed me—I had to write tons of notes, then and there, about how the world building hung together and what the UF side of the plot was going to be but I didn’t really develop the romance plot at that time. In fact, I ended up putting those notes aside for several years while I wrote the Enlightened trilogy. It was only once those three books were done that I picked it up again. There’s quite a few ideas in the book that fascinate me – stuff about reality and fantasy and what it is that makes experiences ‘real’ and ‘valuable’. How those ideas relate to the idea of reading itself.
You have written quite a few (regency) historical romances. Dream Alchemist is very much different, being contemporary urban fantasy. I for one can say I was very glad you did, but can you tell us a bit about why the change?
I wanted to try something new, and that’s pretty much the beginning and end of it. It was part of a wider experiment, I suppose, of trying out both contemporary and UF. Since I finished this book, I’ve written another historical novella and a contemporary novella, and now I’m back to writing another historical novel. It felt really great to get back to historical, actually, so at this point in time, historical still feels like my favourite genre to write in, but I’ll continue to mix it up a bit.
Was it hard to write a different genre?
Yes, it was really hard! In some ways historical and UF (Urban Fantasy) are opposite, but in others they’re similar. I think both require a strong sense of place, but whilst with a historical, you’re trying to reflect a reality that once existed and that readers feel is authentic, with UF it’s about creating a new reality that they find exciting and interesting. And…well, I tried to do that.
Dream Alchemist is the first book in a series. What are your plans for the Somnus-series?
I plan another two books in this series. Book 2 is tentatively titled The Dream Hunter and Book 3 The Dream Assassin. Bryn and Laszlo, the MCs of book 1 will feature in the later books as secondary characters, but each book will have its own pairing and standalone romance. For that reason, I don’t feel a great urgency to write the next book.
There is a lot happening in the story. Will some of it come back in future stories?
In a word, yes. There’s some stuff buried in there that will emerge later. One the most pleasing things about writing a series, for me, is trying to create a story arc that runs through the whole series of books, so that readers feel that they’re not just reading some randomly linked stories, but that it’s all part of a larger whole – that the sum is more than the parts. With my last trilogy, the overall story arc was the three book love story between two characters who were the MCs in all three books, but with the Somnus series, the overall arc is the UF story and each book has its own romance and MCs, so that’s quite different for me.
Time for a funny question.If you were a Dreamwalker? Whose dreams would you want to visit and why?
Oooh, good question! I’m going with Kate Bush, because she’s an artist in so many ways – through music and dance and visual arts – and I think she’d have intriguing, creative dreams. That’s not a very funny answer but it’s a true one.
Laszlo is under the impression he has a sleeping disorder and had treatments for it. Did you do a lot of research for his background story?
Not really (though now I feel I should have!). That whole part was quite wildly imagined. I actually had a scene from The Princess Bride in mind when I was thought about Laszlo’s treatment. It’s the scene where Wesley is tortured by the Christopher Guest character and Guest says to him something like, “Now, tell me honestly how you feel. And please be honest, this is for posterity.”
Tell us a funny thing that happened while writing Dream Alchemist.
My ancient little writing laptop broke shortly before I finished the first draft and I realised I had no backups anywhere else. Actually, again, that’s not funny at all, is it? Anyway, the PC repair job managed to rescue me and now I do regular backing-up!
Can you share a bit of your plans for the future books in the series?
Hmmm, well, I can say that Tristan will be one of the protagonists of Book 2 and Dylan will be one of them in Book 3. And we will see more of Finn, and more of my favourite secondary character, Wyatt.
You can find Joanna at any of the following places:
ABOUT: Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. She spent over 20 years staring at blank sheets of paper and despairing of ever writing a single word. In between staring at blank sheets of paper, she studied law, met her husband and had two children. Whilst nursing her first child, she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna lives in Scotland with her family and finds time to write by eschewing sleep and popular culture.