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Interview with Bethan-Ann Scott: Author of Empress Fallen

Bethan-Ann Scott is the youngest author I have had the chance to work with so far. Her first novel, Empress Fallen, is an exciting Space Opera that made its debut Late 2013.  Ms. Scott is already a well-traveled Scottish adventurer with an exciting career  ahead of her -(find some more out about her here.)

Among the many blogs Bethan-Ann hosts is The Writer, her fantasy fiction blog.  Talk to her on twitter to find out more about her and her other blogs, you could like her on Facebook too.

This interview has been my most unique and interesting one to date. Bethan-Ann shared with me some thought provoking ideas behind her writing, as well as a very entertaining ramble, and one answer that is practically an adventure story of its own.  Read on to see what I mean, and if you missed the review, find it here.

You are a very young author, with several blogs and now your first published novel, what gave you the inspiration and motivation to start writing?

One word: space. I’ve always had an irresistible fascination with the stars, and I want nothing more than to travel among them. However, I was enticed away from my first ambition to become an astronaut by a love of economics, history and politics. I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pencil, and I was actually about eight years old when I began my first novel, a children’s fantasy book called ‘Ramosia’. I still have those 30,000ish words stashed away somewhere, and who knows, I may revisit them again in the future! My motivation comes through an ardent love of the power of words and imagination. And I think that sense of being anything you want to be, going anywhere you want to go, is just seductively enticing. That power of creation is a power like no other, and I relish becoming lost in my own creations. It’s really the path to immortality, isn’t it? Something Carl Sagan once said (one of my idols of course) has always driven me, ‘books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.’

Empress Fallen is a Space-Opera that portrays government ambiguity; Was the original idea for Empress fallen to have political undertones?

Yes, it was. I had recently read Orwell’s ‘1984’ and was beginning delve into works by the likes of Friedman and Hayek. I was intrigued by the idea of a bloated government entangled within the entrapments of labyrinthine bureaucracy, as well as how political freedom is sacrificed when power is concentrated. So I essentially created an authoritarian state with elements of economic freedom but blatant corruption and ethical perversion. But I also can’t resist filling my stories with adventure, as well as that essential ingredient: romance. I’m going to decorate my words with another Carl Sagan quote: ‘for small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’

For your career as a writer, would you rather be more known for your fantasy-fiction or political undertones in your writing (or perhaps something else)? Or more simply if you don’t want to answer that one is — Where would you hope to see your writing career in the future?

Great question. But I’ll answer the second one too! Firstly, I’d definitely want to be known for my political undertones, because I have plans to explore other genres too, such as high fantasy, literary fiction, historical fiction, murder mystery, and action adventure/thriller. Although there will most likely be scifi elements creeping into all of those! I’d love to be known as a political writer.

And as for the second question? Well, I’m someone who sets myself almost unattainably high standards, as well as being crazily competitive and insanely ambitious . . . so ideally, because why not, the truth is, well, probably the wildest dreams of any writer, would be something along the lines of the following: publish three books a year, all of them bestsellers, books rapidly made into internationally bestselling blockbusters that win ten Academy awards each, books then win a plethora of prizes, (the Pulitzer, the Carnegie, the Man Booker, definitely the Man Booker), travel all over the world as a philanthropist and advocate of peace and democracy, write some fiercely analytical and poignant political non-fiction that lead to international acclaim and honours from the Queen, then have a daring adventure across some war-torn nation chased by separatists or extremists where I fall madly in love with a fellow victim, before we finally make it back on British soil following an international campaign for our safe return, maybe another Man Booker, then somewhere along the way, a Nobel Peace Prize and a Nobel Prize in Literature. Also, somewhere in there, I also intend to be the second female British Prime Minister (either as a Tory or heading up a reinvented New Liberal Party centred around Friedman’s economics), as well as the Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, and the first person to set foot on Mars . . .

But I digress . . . My more realistic targets for my writing career are to publish at least one book a year from now on, and achieve widespread critical acclaim. (One of my life goals is to have one of my books made into a film by JJ Abrams!) Sorry for that long-winded reply, but my imagination tends to take off when I’ve had too much caffeine.

What is your favorite scene from Empress Fallen?

Aargh, how can you ask that? That’s like asking a parent to pick a favourite child! No . . . I can do this. Right, let’s think . . . Ok, my favourite scene would have to be . . . (spoiler alert!) when Miriam and co. are trying to escape the Eversor missile, when she kills her father, and when she finally tells Damon she loves him. My second favourite scene is the confrontation between Aliya and the Empress at the top of the Imperial Tower in Regnum, when all hell breaks lose. Also, I absolutely loved writing the final scene just before the epilogue!

What books are you reading now, or what type of books do you typically read?

Wow. That’s a question with a looong answer, but I’ll try to keep it concise! I read across a very wide range of genres. My all-time favourite books include Wuthering Heights, The Lord of the Rings, Murder on the Orient Express, The War of the Worlds, Life of Pi, and 1984. The book I’m reading right now is called ‘The Storyteller’ by Jodi Picoult.

What was your biggest take-away from your first experience writing a novel?

That sense of pride and satisfaction when you first hold a copy of your book in your hands. That’s an insurmountable emotion. And just the sense of accomplishment at completing a year-long project, and of course, the feedback from readers is so motivational. I can’t wait to work on and improve on areas that need improvement.

How did you choose to publish independently? Who was the greatest help along the way?

Well, I initially tried the traditional publishing route but their timescales were far too long and I wanted it published before I applied to university, so I withdrew my agency submissions. But in the future I’ll probably always try traditional first before committing to doing it independently. I think this is the consensus among most authors. It’s just fantastic that POD technology and the ebook market are liberating literature and advocating the love of reading and writing across the world. The landscape of literature is shifting, the tectonic plates are moving, and it heralds an era of independence, a new golden age. The success of an author no longer lies in the corrupt and sordid hands of the editor, with the single subjectivity of one individual with eyes only for money, but in the hands of the most supreme judge . . . the reader. Talent is now paramount. It’s great.

When writing Empress Fallen, did you start writing from the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle of the book?

I started from the beginning but I actually only added in the prologue later on. The prologue-epilogue frame narrative was something I only realised was what I wanted about a third of the way through the novel.

Who was the first character or scene you created for Empress Fallen? I.E. where did the idea of Empress Fallen first begin?

The first character I created was the Empress herself. I remember when I first began thinking about this story almost two years ago now, I wrote down a string of ideas, something like, ‘empire, corrupt society, oppressed proletariat, empress, revolution.’ And it really just grew from there!

What was the hardest aspect of writing Empress Fallen?

The hardest aspect would probably be being forced to hurt my characters, my creations. I know that sounds rather odd and hypocritical as I’m the one hurting them, but sometimes the story just takes the author along for the ride!

Are you currently working on a sequel to Empress Fallen? How is it coming along?

Yes, Book II of the Through Darkness trilogy is coming along nicely! It’s called ‘Erebus Born’ and begins just over two months after the events of Book I. I’ve almost hit 20,000 words and plan to release it in November 2014. (And Book III of the trilogy will be released in November 2015!)

After the series is complete, do you have plans for a new series?

Oh, I have a thousand and one ideas! I suspect this is the same for all writers, especially those of fantasy and science fiction. Our heads are just teeming with stories. But the thing I’ll probably write first is a near-future science fiction called ‘Suspended in a Sunbeam’ set on Earth just after robots are distributed into households and factories worldwide. It centres around a young astrophysicist and explorer, John Ptolemy Falconer, and the new global space race! There’s also an epic scifi-fantasy series I’ve been planning called ‘The Nexus Key’, which involves Magi and FTL travel among other things. I also have a romance murder mystery in the works set in 19th century industrial London, as well as a literary fiction story that centres around a young Scottish student volunteering in Vietnam, who meets a mysterious, silent boy on the banks of the Red River and rapidly becomes drawn into a whole new reality of hardship, love and courage. Thank you for all these fantastic questions, by the way. Now, I’ll get back to writing! (After I make another cup of tea!)

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