Intro: What is your name, what do you write, and where can readers find you on social media? And just for fun, if you could be any mythical being or creature, who or what would you be?
Hello! My name is C. J. Brightley, and I write noblebright fantasy of various different sub-genres – epic fantasy, fairytales, fairytale romance, etc. I love complex characters who choose to do the right thing even when it hurts. My website is www.cjbrightley.com, and I’m on Twitter as @cjbrightley, and Instagram as @cjbrightley. The best way to keep in touch is to subscribe to my mailing list at http://www.cjbrightley.com/subscribe/! I also run Noblebright.org, which highlights noblebright fantasy new and old, as well as featuring other articles about reading and writing noblebright fantasy.
If I could be any mythical creature, I would be… oh, this is hard! I’d love to be an elf or a phoenix. But I’ve heard “Always be yourself, unless you can be a dragon. Then be a dragon.” And it’s really hard to argue with that advice!
- The Lord of Dreams is about a young girl who wishes to be a hero and is whisked off to a magical land teeming with unforeseen dangers. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Every book is a journey to me. My writing process is non-linear, and I pants my books much more than plot them. I have general ideas of a theme or emotional journey, a few sharp images along the way, and feelings the reader or character should experience. But the process of turning those little bits and pieces into a book is a very emotional journey to me, replete with thousands of fail gifs sent to my author friends for sympathy!
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit the homes of my favorite authors, but I live outside Washington DC, so I’ve been able to visit the homes and libraries of many of the Founding Fathers. As fascinating as the libraries and experiences were, I’m thankful that books are more readily available now, and for the opportunity to publish things that may seem frivolous. I believe stories change us, and within fairytales and fantasy we can find truth that elevates our minds and character. Through stories, we can fill our minds with what is true, honest, and virtuous; we can fill ourselves with what inspires us and with what we aspire to be.
- Your main character, Claire, quickly learns to be careful what she wishes for. What would you wish for if given the chance? And what price would you have to pay?
Well, there are the serious answers, but at this moment, I’d wish for unlimited time to write without sacrificing family time or sleep or any other essentials. The price I’d have to pay? Probably growing old in that time while the rest of the world is frozen so I don’t miss anything. Eep!
- What book or story ignited your love of fairy mythos?
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It captivated me with magic, allegory, wonder, betrayal, heroism, redemption, and sacrificial love. The story isn’t about “fairies” per se, but it was about temptation, the cost of the decisions we make, and redemption. As far as fairies specifically, I really don’t remember. Recently I’ve greatly enjoyed W.R. Gingell’s Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy of novellas, in which the fairies are complex and yet very human, and Intisar Khanani’s short story “The Bone Knife”.
- Clare’s real wish is to be the center of attention. As a writer, do you think having a big ego would help or hinder your creative process?
A little bit of both! It takes a lot of courage (because it’s terrifying! And I do it anyway.) to put my work out there. I’m terrified of being judged for my storytelling, my characters, my writing ability, my professionalism, and everything else. It feels egotistical to put my work out there, as if it’s worthy of being read right along with the stories that have so inspired me.
Too much or too little ego can make it hard to take critiques and criticism well and make use of feedback. I’m blessed to have some fantastic beta readers who get what I’m trying to do. I want to take their comments with humility, because they’re trying to help me improve my writing. But even wildly off-base critiques should be taken from a place of humble confidence – neither too much ego (to discount potentially useful feedback out of pride) nor too little (not all feedback is correct, and only the author knows the story they’re trying to tell).
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t be so stuck on the approval of traditional publishers! Self-publish when the book is ready rather than sticking it in a drawer for another five years.
Read. Edit. Re-edit. Proof. Then go for it.
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I realized how much I loved writing stories, and that a file on my computer could actually turn into a real book. I didn’t necessarily dream of making a living writing, but I did dream of finding readers who loved the stories I loved.
My first book, The King’s Sword, is the only book I plotted. The second book, A Cold Wind, was written more-or-less backwards. From then on, the writing process has only gotten less linear. I don’t write in order, and I don’t plot at all now. There’s a lot of flailing around in the middle, but it’s part of my process.
- You seem to have a love of fantasy that transcends all the age groups you write for. What was the first series that made you fall in love with the genre?
The very first was The Chronicles of Narnia, and shortly afterwards The Lord of the Rings. Then Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence. I actually went on a huge classics binge in middle school and high school, devouring swashbuckling adventures and historical romantic novels like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche. Even though they weren’t fantasies, they had the grand adventures I craved.
I guess that was more than one. They were all influential at about the same period in my life, and I got similar things from each of them – swas
- For fans of your books, what other authors should they read?
Some of my favorite current fantasy authors are W.R. Gingell, JA Andrews, Mike Reeves-McMillan, Intisar Khanani, Marc Secchia, and Christopher Bunn.
- Have you ever had readers block?
Yes! It’s real for me. Sometimes it’s because I’m stressed about something else going on in my life (in which case I need to deal with that before worrying about writing), and sometimes it’s because I honestly don’t know what happens next (in which case I need to take a few days and really think about the story and how to translate vague ideas into scenes). I’ve also dealt with a particular health issue that caused a significant amount of “brain fog”, among other symptoms; and finding a good treatment for the root issue helped a lot!
- Favorite moment/moments with fans who have read your book?
I do the same local events every year; I’ve had several fans run up to my booth, trilled to get new books and a picture with me. One of my fans even presented me with fan art of one of my characters!
- What is your Kryptonite when writing and how do you fight it?
My non-linear writing process! I always think I’m failing in the middle of the story, because it’s a jumble of bits and pieces all out of order and only tenuously connected at all. I know they should go together but I can’t seem to slot them into the right places. So I flail around, and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and eventually I smash everything together in a way that mostly makes sense. Then I can smooth it out and fill in the gaping holes and do all the editing that turns a draft into a story.
I’m always convinced that flailing is evidence of failure. After seven novels and several longish novellas, I’m finally learning that it’s just part of my process. I panic, I flail, and then I finish the book
Thanks for having me on your blog!
Thank you for the great interview, CJ! Remember to follow her on her website: www.cjbrightley.com, Twitter @cjbrightley, and Instagram @cjbrightley. Subscribe to her mailing list at http://www.cjbrightley.com/subscribe/! And join Noblebright.org, which highlights noblebright fantasy new and old, as well as featuring other articles about reading and writing noblebright fantasy.
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As always, keep making magic, word weavers!