Hey there, Insiders!
Today we chat to Gwynn White, an author of high-octane steampunk-fantasy.
Break the ice and tell our readers who you are and what kind of thing you write:
Hello, I am a South African, currently living in the UK with my husband, Andrew, my three daughters, a yapping Toy Pomeranian, and a fantastic farm cat, called Pixel.
I spend most of my waking hours writing fantasy and science fiction books. My novels are all set in fantastic worlds, inhabited by strong heroines and sharp-witted heroes. To confuse things, I also write adventure travel books set firmly on planet Earth. Weird, I know, but it makes me tick.
When I’m not writing, I’m reading, traveling, herding kids around, taking dogs for walks, and avoiding all cooking
How do you approach your stories; do you plan everything out before starting, or are you more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of a person?
I am definitely a planner. The whole idea of starting a book without a comprehensive structure terrifies me. What happens if I never get to the end? So, yes, I spend about two weeks plotting before I start the actual writing. That doesn’t mean I never deviate from my outline, but at least I have a beginning, middle and end in mind. This also helps me write faster. I don’t claim to write a book a month, like some people do, but an outline helps me write a book every two months or so.
Tell us about your most recent release, and why the heck our readers should give it a shot:
Dragon’s Fire, the third book in my Crown of Blood series. If you like steampunk gadgets, strong characters, adventure, some romance, and a lot of intrigue, all woven into a tapestry inspired by—wait for it—the African Savannah and Old Mother Russia, then you will enjoy these books. Readers say Rebel’s Honor, the first book in the series, is designed to rob you of your sleep.
What’s the biggest influence on the kind of thing you write? Another writer? A TV show? Some other thing that is neither of those two things?
This is a tough one…Although I don’t write epic fantasy (yet) I have definitely been inspired by the rich world building in the Lord of the Rings, Narnia and The Hobbit movies. As role models and mentors, I have to thank two of my favourite indie authors: Lindsay Buroker and Becca Andre. They have both (in very different ways) shown me that anyone with a dream, some determination, a thick skin, a bit of talent, and whole lot of work ethic can make it as an indie author.
I stop what I’m doing for Robert Downey Jnr’s Sherlock Holmes movies. I think they are just brilliant. In fact, it’s time they released another one.
What was your favourite book as a kid?
I was a ferocious reader, consuming a book a day, so it’s hard to pin any one book as a favourite, but I always loved adventure stories. That’s why you will always find an adventure at the core of my writing.
What comes first for you with a story, concept or characters?
That’s an easy one to answer—the characters. It’s like they arrive in my head, complete with a story attached. In my less lucid moments, I like to think that they live in a parallel universe and that they are looking for suckers like me on planet Earth to channel their stories…
What are you reading/watching/playing/hiding from right now?
I am about to get on a plane to fly to Dubai for a two-week trip in the desert to shoot a travel documentary with my husband. Did I mention that I also write adventure travel books? If you fancy an escape-to-paradise-that-wasn’t adventure, you might enjoy my travel story, Torn Trousers. We also make travel movies for a YouTube channel, 4xOverland. In between lugging a camera around, I’ll be plotting out my fourth book in the Crown of Blood series and reading Lindsay Buroker’s Snake Heart.
What made you decide to go indie, and what do you see as the benefits of indie?
Not being a believer in reincarnation, I soon realised that I didn’t have multiple lives to waste waiting for agents and editors to decide if they wanted to publish my books. So, when I saw the option to self-publish on KDP, I jumped at it. Really, it wasn’t a huge mind leap because, years ago while living in South Africa, I wrote travel books for a publisher who eventually went bankrupt. Thankfully, I escaped with my titles and started my own traditional publishing company for those books. It was very successful. Today’s indie business is different because it’s digital, but self-publishing was no-brainer for me. I like control, I like speed, and I like the challenge (thrill) of marketing.
Who is your favourite fictional character, be it from books, TV, comics, movies or games?
Again, I have so many that I love, but the first to spring to mind are Harry Potter, Addie the Addled Alchemist (from The Final Formula), Sam Gamgee (Lord of the Rings)
Tell us about a great indie book or two that you’ve read:
I have a few favourite indie-authors but I’ll mention two very different books. I just loved the Zero Sum Game by S.L Huang. It’s part of the brilliant Russell’s Attic series. Cas Russell, the quirky but lethal heroine, has a math superpower. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, but she has a lot of weaknesses. The combination makes for a heart-racing adventure. I also adore The Final Formula series by Becca Andre. These urban fantasies satisfy my need for alchemists, necromancers, magic, and zombies. Throw in some light romance, and you have great adventures.
D’you listen to music whilst you write? The TV on in the background providing a pleasant white-noise babble? Or d’you DEMAND SILENCE WHILST YOU CREATE FROM NOTHING.
I have two different playlists for each book. A plotting one with songs with lyrics that ‘speak’ to me about my story, and then a writing list of mainly classical and orchestral film scores, because I can’t have lyrics while I’m writing. My Dragon’s Fire plotting list included songs like Smile by Mikkey Ekko, and Let Him Go by Birdie.
Which of your own works are you proudest of?
Rebel’s Honor, the first book in the Crown of Series. It has a 5.7 star average in Amazon US store, based on twenty-two reviews. That makes me smile.
What’s you’re writing schedule like? Are you super regimented, butt-in-chair every day, tip-tapping away for hours, or an airy-fairy ‘when the muse strikes’ sort of a person?
I am very disciplined in my writing. I write very day with the aim putting down a minimum of 3500 words. If I don’t achieve my goal, I feel guilty. Guilt sucks, I know, but it gets the job done. That said, I love writing, so it really is a pleasure.
What’s your number one piece of advice for anyone reading this who is considering going the indie route?
Two bits, actually. Number one: Have fun. Writing and self-publishing is a huge adventure, so enjoy it. And two, don’t be scared to try new things. In this industry, everything you do is for the first time because it is so fluid—it’s changing all the time—so don’t be scared to mess up by being adventurous. It doesn’t matter if things don’t work quite like you planned because you are control and you can change things quickly if they are not working.
Tell me a ‘classic’ book that you’ve not been able to get through:
So what treats do you have in store for readers next?
At the moment, my entire focus is on my Crown of Blood series, so the next treat will be book four—as yet unnamed. All I do know is that it will be another intrigue-filled, nail-biting adventure.