You may have seen the interview with Crispina Kemp I shared a few weeks ago from my book review blog, Sammi Loves Books. Now I get to share with you an epic three-part interview with Crispina, as we talk about her soon-to-be released five book historical fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game.
The first part of the interview can be found below, where Crispina answers some questions on writing the series, the main character, Kerrid, and where the story is set. Tune in next Friday for Part 2, when we turn our attention to magic and mythology, amongst other things…
Part 1: Introducing an Epic Series
You’ve just released a five-book fantasy series for pre-order, The Spinner’s Game. Could you please introduce the series for those not yet acquainted with it.
Simplest said is the starting premise: To be different is to be feared, and people destroy what they fear. Kerrid is different; she has disturbing powers not shared by any in her clan. The Spinner’s Game follows Kerrid’s journey across vast distances through a world of changing cultures, from tribal to early townships, as she discovers her truths and puts right an ancient wrong.
A five-book series, with each instalment being an epic-length book, is not only a huge achievement, but a huge commitment too. How long did the process take you roughly from beginning to end? And, what were the highs and lows, if any, of your journey?
If we take it from the first draft, then my simple answer is 14 years. But that’s a misrepresentation. During the first 12 years, I also wrote several other stories.
I began The Spinner’s Game in 2006. But for an unknown author, its word-count of 150,000 was too high. I set it aside, to come back to it in 2012 when I restructured it… and doubled the word-count. It was now a trilogy.
In December 2012, I created the Feast Fables blog where I posted The Spinner’s Game in instalments. It took three years.
I thought that would satisfy my need to expose the Spinner’s child to public view. But it didn’t. In November 2017, I announced my intention to publish the story as an e-book. And the first thing I did was again to restructure it. Now into five parts.
The highs and the lows of that journey?
There have been many highs, more than there have been lows. The highest was when my critique partner, cover-designer Lauren Willmore, offered her talents to design the covers. When I saw that first cover, even though it was only in rough… wow! And she continued to deliver amazing covers.
But the lows…? The long hours I was working towards the end. For the entirety of January, I was putting in eight hours a day, every day, to complete and make ready to upload. It was hard graft, but it was worth it.
How did the character of Kerrid come to you? Was she fully formed or did her personality and background slowly reveal themselves as the story progressed?
The first glimmer of inspiration was from the Welsh myth of the goddess Cerridwen with her magical cauldron. Oh, how far she has come from there!
Kerrid began as the antagonist in The Hare and the Adder, a story yet to be reworked to my satisfaction. As head of a trading empire, she already had certain qualities… and her otherworldly abilities. But she had no backstory. How did she come to be perched on the western shores of the Boundless Sea? And why doesn’t she like my protagonist? There began her backstory… which became The Spinner’s Game.
During the initial creation of characters, I sometimes assign them an astrological sun sign. In The Spinner’s Child, Gimmerin takes Aries – red hair, body conscious, a me-first attitude. Kerrid takes Libra – but to explain the reasons behind that would give too many spoilers. However, it’s her Libran qualities that endow her with a love of fabrics, and her indecisiveness. Other than that, Kerrid’s character was forged by the challenges faced from early childhood on.
The series blends prehistory with imaginative fantasy on an epic scale, but where is the story set? Here in this world, or in a secondary world? Are the descriptions of locations of real places? If not, do any take their inspiration from real world destinations?
While the story belongs to this world, it is a myth and, as with all myths, is set in liminal times, at liminal places. These (liminal) thresholds are a recognised stage of initiation, to move beyond effects a change.
We see this and acknowledge it even in our hurried asphalt-greyed days. The sweetness of spring, the autumnal smell of decay, the lengthening days with the promise of warmth and sun and good times ahead. And at these times fall the major religious holidays. Place too: the woodland edge, the mountain top, the cave as an entrance to another world, and the many borders of land and sea. Who does not find inspiration in a simple riverside walk? In such places we gain a sense of being outside of time. It’s in that ‘outside of time and space’ that the story is set.
But also, I did have specific eras and geographic regions in mind when writing. In my head, the story begins just as the Younger Dryas (the last blip of the Ice Age) was beginning to bite. I imagined the women of Kerrid’s clan as horticulturists. During the last Glacial Maximum, many of our temperate plants found refuge south of the Caspian Sea. The apple is believed to come from here. But the region served as a hook to help me research the flora and fauna.
In a similar vein, when Kerrid travels west and north in search of the pole that threads, it seemed logical to place her on the Atlantic seaboard of Western Europe, a familiar landscape for me.
Part Two coming next week!
The Spinner’s Game
All five books of Crispina Kemp’s series, The Spinner’s Game, are available for pre-order now, with a release date of 21st March 2020. Follow the link below to her Amazon author page or website for more information.
As a bonus, she says:
“And I’m now able to offer a full-sized, full-colour map of Lake of Skulls – a high resolution (2048 x 1536 px) full-colour fantasy map on pdf – if the reader sends me proof of pre-order. They should contact me via my Contact Me page on crispinakemp.com”
Connect with Crispina Kemp
Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.
But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.
In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).
Resident in Norfolk where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.