Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong
Publication date: September 27th 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Secrets beget secrets. The curse that befell the Hollows clan has left them incapable of producing male offspring. To extend their bloodline, they have formed a covenant with the serpentine Ophidians, who give them children. In return, the Hollows must keep these monstrous creatures well fed, though the details of the procurement are so abominable that the truth is never revealed to the other clans. In their homeland of Matikki, they live like outcasts.
Through a series of chance discoveries, the secrets of the ancient curse unfold before a warrior named Writhren Hollow. Is her purely female clan the result of a lapse of divine providence, or are the Hollows themselves victims of an enslavement scheme?
If Writhren frees her clan from the covenant, she risks the wrath of the Ophidians and the future of her bloodline. If she keeps the truth of the curse to herself, she is a traitor to her own kind. Either way, she will suffer for what she must do.
This is not a story of redemption, but regret. This is Writhren’s story.
Interview with the Author
1) Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did your background influence the genre you write in?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, back when it was a British colony. Growing up, I was the black sheep in the family, the only one drawn to arts and culture. Everyone else preferred math and science.
Back in high school, students in each grade were divided into different groups or “sets” depending on various academic factors, and I was switched back and forth between one set and another a couple times. Somehow, I did not fit in either of the sets.
This “outsider” streak continued through university when, as a city girl, I ended up in a rural college town of about 1000 people. In spite of all its natural beauty and the school’s academic excellence, the isolation of the place drove me nuts.
Now living in Canada as an immigrant straddling countries and cultures, I find the fantasy genre particularly suitable for my stories. Finally, I can create places where I truly belong.
2) Where and when did your writing journey begin?
My writing journey is divided into phases, and I’ll share with you the beginning of my most recent one.
I was in my car wailing in the wee hours of morning, telling my friend Amanda how I would never make it as a literary writer, that I hadn’t read enough books, didn’t have the academic qualifications to write anything intelligent or relevant.
Amanda said, “But why do you want to be a literary writer? You don’t even like literary fiction that much.”
I said, “But what other kind of writer could I be?”
“I think you should be a genre writer. All your story ideas involve some kind of time travel or magical transformation, and these are the common themes in fantasy stories. You are not a literary writer, Annie. You are a fantasy writer.”
I heaved until I stopped crying. From that night on, I have been a fantasy writer.
3) Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
Garth Nix’s Sabriel details a daughter’s journey to save her father while filling in the role of a demon executioner called the Abhorsen until he can be freed. The story’s themes of duty and sacrifice resonate deeply with me.
Writing can be seen as a means to purge one’s demons, and as a writer, I feel a strong sense of duty towards my stories. Regardless of how tired I am, my writing desk beckons. This idea of hardship, commitment and sacrifice bleeds into Children of Lightning as well.
China Mieville is another one of my favourite authors. His novel, Perdido Street Station, is full of strange, fantastical creatures. It’s liberating to know that I don’t have to follow any pattern when it comes to creating my own mythical beings.
4) What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
I have a full time job in transportation and logistics. Working usually happens during the weekends between family gatherings.
5) How did you come up with the idea for your book, “Children of Lightning?”
Before I wrote Children of Lightning, I spent a couple years drafting the first book in a fantasy series about a young hero rising against an ancient and powerful monster who vows to destroy her family and the world. After I finished the manuscript, however, I became curious about this monster, where she came from and how she became so full of vengeance. Even though she is the villain, I found it unjust to the character to simply bring her out to be defeated. She needed her own story.
People often overlook the importance of the villain in a story, especially in the fantasy genre. Without the villain initiating the attack, there will be no reason for defense, for heroic deeds. For this reason, the villain gives birth to the hero, and a well-rounded villain is more interesting, more challenging. The more we know about a monster, the less monstrous s/he becomes, and yet, because of who she is, she continues to be threatening. The hero’s battle against this evil force will be more complex and in the end, more rewarding. That is why I decide to write an origin story for the villain in my book series, Writhen Hollow, the result of which is Children of Lightning.
6) What do you think sets your book apart from all the others fantasy series current on the shelves?
Children of Lightning offers a brand new reading experience by first presenting the journey of the villain. As I have said earlier, the villain drives the story, especially in the fantasy genre. It may not be as uplifting as the standard hero’s journey, but it should be no less interesting. After all, it is easy to understand the desire or the need to fight those who threaten our lives. Choosing a path of eternal damnation is a decision that no one wants to make. The “why” behind this decision is an intriguing question.
Our hero will show up later on in the book series. To understand how tough her fight will be against her opponent, the reader deserves to first get acquainted with our villain, Writhren Hollow.
7) Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
I think there is a part of me in every character of the book. In the protagonist Writhren Hollow, I see an emotional, headstrong woman who may be selfish at times but is a courageous fighter nonetheless. She is a combination of my younger self and my best and worst qualities.
8) Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
There were two scenes in the book I particularly enjoyed. The first was in Chapter 2 when Mother took baby Tithren (who later goes by the name of Writhren Hollow) to see a medicine woman called Mend Zitka. In that world, being a warrior is not just an honour but a necessity. The Birth Rites are a ritual through which every infant proves his strength and potential as a warrior. It is refreshing to write about babies not as something fragile, but as mini-sized fighters who, in spite of their appearance, have the ability to protect themselves from danger.
The other scene that I like is (of course), the climatic fight between Writhren Hollow and the most powerful Ophidian in The Shadowlands. It was the big carrot that kept me moving through the writing process that could be difficult at times.
9) What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
I hope the reader will be intrigued by the brand new world offered by Children of Lightning. The story takes place in the mythical land of Matikki, which bulges with volcanoes and rips with lava running through it like blood vessels. This exotic locale affects the lifestyles, architecture and cultures of those who live there.
The inhabitants of Matikki may not be human, but their struggles and aspirations are similar to ours. The need to feel accepted and loved is universal. Our protagonist, Writhen Hollow, may be “the villain”, but her ambitions and desires are not that different from ours.
In the book, Writhren Hollow did try repeatedly “to do the right thing.” At what point did these “heroic deeds” turn into acts of regret? Where do we draw the line between a hero and a villain? These are interesting questions that the book asks and hopefully gives readers lots to think about.
10) What are your hopes for this book?
I hope readers will find Children of Lightning exciting and show their support by posting their reviews online and of course, purchasing the book at places like Amazon or Smashwords.
Why are reviews and purchases important? They are tangible evidences of my readers’ approval of the story. They are signposts indicating that readers would like to read more about the journey of Writhren Hollow and her nemesis, the hero in the book series. These messages are not for my ego, but the much needed encouragements I need to keep investing my resources in writing and marketing my books.
As an ebook author, I don’t have the financial backing of a publisher. Editing and marketing are costly, and book promotion is time-consuming. Without the feedback from my readers, it is hard to keep this storytelling engine running.
In comparison, the price of about US$0.99 for each download of Children of Lightning is a small cost for the readers to show their love for the story. Each purchase goes a long way towards my ability to keep writing.
11) What do you have in store next for your readers?
Children of Lightning ends with Writhren Hollow’s rise to power. In the next book, I plan to describe her downfall and how she might survive it. Villains, like heroes, are first and foremost, survivors.
About the Author
Annie K. Wong was born in Hong Kong and lives in Canada, in the west coast city of Vancouver, BC. She has a BA in Business Administration and Creative Writing from Houghton College as well as a Diploma in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia. Although she explored careers in advertising, television and office administration, the desire to write overtook her at the turn of the new millennium. In 2003 she earned a Post-Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College and has been crafting stories ever since.
Her current project is a fantasy series, the prequel of which is Children of Lightning.
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