Monday, December 2, 2013

Meet the #Author Monday - Greta van der Rol

Please tell us a bit about yourself:
I have three very early memories I'd like to share. One is from a photograph, where I'm sitting with a book on my knee. Just ignore my brother. The book is an illustrated Peter Pan. I must have been 3. Then there was a big book of stories for children (in Dutch) and one of them was the story from Winnie the Pooh when Pooh goes to visit Rabbit and eats all his honey, so he can't get out the front door. And the third is just a memory. My mum used to tell me stories when she did the ironing. The ironing board would come out and I'd rush to fetch my little chair. I'd ask for the one about Hansje and the dwarves and she'd do shirts and tell me a story I knew better than she did. I used to correct her if she got it wrong.

 Anyway, after that beginning how could I not end up writing stories?

Mind you, I've done a few other things. A history degree, teaching, and a long career in IT. But that's boring.

Tell us about your latest short story, INK:
What inspired you to write this particular story?:
My Morgan Selwood stories are my best sellers. Readers like to know more about characters and in Ink I explain how Admiral Ashkar Ravindra acquired his very distinctive tattoo. Not everybody likes Ravindra. He's been variously described by reviewers as brutal, a jerk - and an absolutely drool-worthy hunk. Like all people, he is a product of the society in which he was born and raised. So this little story gives me a chance to flesh out Manesai society, and put the man into the context of his upbringing. It's important to understand that men like him DO NOT HAVE TATTOOS. Common troopers have tatts, not admirals. And this is a highly structured society where a person is born into a role in life and it's not usual – or good – to buck the rules, even if they're not written down.

So here we have it. Admiral Ravindra when he was a youth. School's over, the Fleet Acadmey is next and in that gap, Ravindra takes off for a jaunt in the mountains. The pleasant hunting trip he'd planned with an old mentor turns into an ordeal where lives are at stake. If Ashkar makes the wrong decision, he'll be the next to die.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:
"Show me this tattoo."
For a moment Ravindra didn't move, his face still, then his lips jerked into a brief, humorless smile. He slid a hand down the fastenings on his long-sleeved shirt, then pulled the garment off and draped it around the back of the visitor's chair beside him. Bare from the waist he pivoted, graceful as a dancer, displaying wide shoulders tapering to a narrow waist. The whole of his right shoulder was covered in lines that trailed down his back.
Torbane shook his head. Brainless, stupid boy. He'd hoped for something subtle, something he could ignore, or accept with a reprimand. Although he couldn't argue the tattoo was a work of art, some sort of flying beast, its wings raised, a crested, cruel-beaked head looking to the right, the elaborate tail curving around Ravindra's back. The lines almost glowed against the lad's dark skin.
"About face."
Ravindra turned around, his gaze fixed on that spot above Torbane's head again. He stood at attention. No. Many cadets had stood at attention in that spot. Most had been rigid, about as flexible as a metal rod. This man/boy was calm, comfortable with his stance.
"What in the Goddess's holy name possessed you to have something like that done? You're the son of an admiral."

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:
Personality first. But I admit it's mixed up with looks. Name is dead last. I've renamed many a character more than once.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:
Work at it. Do the courses, learn the 'rules', read writers you admire and analyse what works for you and what doesn't. Get support from other writers. Everybody will give you that advice. Let me add a few other things.
·         Don't take all the advice you're given, particularly from well-intentioned people who don't read your genre. Not everybody will like or understand your work. It's your story.
·         Don't over-edit. I don't mean nuts and bolts spelling and grammar – they are essential. Get 'em right. But I know I've nearly gutted my own work by over-editing. Other people are better at picking up boring bits or irrelevancies than you are, but even then, you won't get agreement. Once again, trust your own judgement.
·         Don't expect to make money. If you do, aren't you lucky? 
·         Do understand that readers are fickle creatures. You don't have to be a brilliant wordsmith to earn a bazillion. You have to find that elusive thread that catches the collective imagination. 50SoG, Twilight, The da Vinci Code, Harry Potter. All of them are panned for poor writing. I wish I had their financial problems.

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?:
Back to the Future, eh? I think I'd like to ensure that when the first Martian colonists escaped their dying planet and set up shop here, they'd make a real effort to put up something for us to find that would signal our extra-planetary origins, that we would be able to find when we're advanced enough. Maybe the remains of their spaceship, buried somewhere. Or maybe they did and if I could go back, I could find out where to go and look? Somewhere in Australia? Hmmmmmm

What super-power would you choose?:
I'd like to be able to fly. Imagine that, being able to zoom around mountain valleys, skim over the ocean, see the cities like an eagle does. <sigh>

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?:
Have you read The Monkey's Paw? Wishes tempt fate. I'll play with the hand I've been dealt, thanks all the same.

Coffee, tea or wine?:
Wine. A good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of spritz and passionfruit and green grass highlights. Or a robust Koonawarra shiraz, at least five years old, with dark chocolate and pepper undertones. Failing that, a cup of Tetley's is nice.

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):
Now that's a hard one. LOTR was un-put-downable for me. Anything by Terry Pratchett is a no-brainer. Then there's a lot of McDevitt, Asimov, Clarke. In the SFR realm, I fell desperately in love with Philip Guthrie, Hope's Folly is a favourite. Oh, and Winnie the Pooh (of course).

Favourite genre and why?:
Knee-jerk answer is science fiction but I read a fair bit of crime (as in murder mysteries) and I read a fair amount of fantasy in the past.

Favourite colour?:
Blue. Any shade of blue.

Upcoming news and plans for the future?:
I'm percolating a new SF story with that dollop of romance. Probably set in the Morgan Selwood universe. But I'm a great believer in finishing stuff (hey, budding writer, are you still reading?) so White Tiger, which is the sequel to my paranormal Black Tiger, is going to be next out of the blocks.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

To find out more about Greta and her books visit

Some rites of passage should be remembered…
Life’s good for 18-year-old Ashkar Ravindra. School’s over, and he’s been accepted into the Fleet Academy. There’s time for one last trip up into the mountains in the brand new flitter his father gave him as a graduation present, before his real life, the one he’s been groomed for from the day he was born, begins in earnest.
Up in the mountains not everyone is pleased to see the privileged admiral’s son. Jealousy and ulterior motives turn the pleasant hunting trip into an ordeal. Lives are a stake. If Ashkar makes the wrong decision, he will be the first to die.
Reviews here
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