Today I bring you an interview with author Annie Douglass Lima. Her latest book is out, so let’s hear more about it.
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
What is the Collar for, and what is a Cavvarach?
The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences. One is that slavery is legal there. Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).
Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil. It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), an unsharpened weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge. Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades. You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.
Tell us about your most recent work. How did the idea come to you? How long did it take you from start to publication?
I’ve just published a young adult action adventure novel called The Collar and the Cavvarach. It takes place in a world very much like our own, except that slavery is legal there. The main character, Bensin, is a teenage slave who is trying to protect and free his younger sister Ellie. He’s an athlete, and he competes in a martial art called cavvara shil, with all the prize money going to his owner, of course.
It’s hard to say exactly how the idea came to me. It just grew gradually in my mind until Bensin and the others were as real to me as my family and friends. I drafted the novel in November 2013 for National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve been working on editing and polishing it ever since.
My favorite part was working on certain scenes in the first draft that just seemed to come to me on their own. Though I had the story pretty well planned out before I began, there were some surprises along the way. For example, a character named Kalgan Shigo, a City Watch Officer (the equivalent of a police officer) grew in a way that I did not anticipate. I had planned two little scenes for him, one at the beginning and another near the end, and that was all. His purpose in the story was to make it more difficult for Bensin to reach his goals. But Officer Shigo decided he wanted more of a role than that, and he stepped forward and claimed it. I don’t want to give anything away, but he appears a number of times now, and does much more than just make Bensin’s life harder. The story is much better this way than it would have been, and it was exciting to watch that change.
My least favorite was the research I had to do before I could write certain parts. Even though my book is fiction, I had to get my facts straight! For example, since one of my characters is an athlete and another is his coach, I spent a lot of time researching training and workouts, healthy diets for athletes, types of martial arts, names of specific types of kicks, and so on. Even though the martial art Bensin practices is made up, I wanted it – and his training regimen – to sound realistic.
Tell us about how this work came to reach us: did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher? What was that like?
I chose to self publish. I like having control over all aspects of my writing and publishing.
What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing? How’s that working out for you?
I’m a fulltime teacher (5th grade), and while I love my day job, it leaves me with a lot less time to write than I’d like. Most of my writing happens during school vacations and weekends, except on the rare occasions when I have enough brainpower left in the evenings. This year I’ve started getting up early to put in an hour or so of writing before school, and that’s been working pretty well.
Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?
I think my greatest strength is creating characters and their dialog. Most of the time I find it easy to get into their heads and know what they’re thinking, what they would say to each other in any given situation.
Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why?
I would love to do better at making my characters’ lives worse. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? 😉 A good story involves lots of problems for the characters, and I think sometimes I tend to make things a little too easy for them at first. I mean, they’re so close to my heart that I want everything to go well for them, you know? But I keep finding myself having to go back and change things to make it harder for them to attain their goals. It makes for a stronger story, but they would probably hate me for it if they ever met me!
Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?
Click on the links below to view or purchase The Collar and the Cavvarach for:
Additionally, here are some ways you can connect with me online: