8 May 2018

Guest Interview with Teri Gray, Author of Murdoch's Tale: Book 1 of Corwin's Chronicle


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

In the time of Richard Lionheart, during the bloody Border Wars between England and Scotland, Tovan, a faer (or “faery,” as we quetan call them) rescues the child Corwin from the massacre of his village. Tormented by recurring nightmares of that day, Corwin struggles to answer Tovan's question: “Why do you quetan do this?” His quest is perhaps a hopeless one: to end war, so that no child will ever again have to
endure such trauma. 

Today I'm pleased to welcome Author Teri Gray:

Tell us about your latest book

I've been a Tolkien fan since my teens, but I always thought, Why does it always have to be about fighting? And just how do elves manage to live such a luxurious lifestyle in the woods with no visible means of support? For years I nibbled at the edges of those questions, trying to figure out how to express them in a way that would be a fun, exciting read. 

Murdoch's Tale is a story within a story. There's Corwin, a child from 12th Century Northumberland, who is rescued from the massacre of his village by Tovan, a Faer, or faerie, as we humans like to call them.  Corwin, a drifty kid with a head full of stories, eventually becomes apprenticed to Philippe, a French troubadour. And then there's Murdoch, orphaned by war like his creator, Corwin, but with all the attributes of a conventional hero (big, strong, handsome, co-ordinated) who has taken a vow of non-violence in an effort to assure that no child will ever have to go through the trauma he experienced. Complications ensue as Corwin weaves his life--including the time he spends among the Faer--into his stories. And yes, there's sword fighting. And people fall in love.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I wish I had one. If I did, this thing would have been on the shelves 20 years ago. (Well, not really. The last piece of the puzzle of creating a distinct mindset for the Faer fell into place in September 2016, when I read The Hidden Life of Trees. Murdoch's Tale is much better than it would have been 20 years ago.) For a time, this series was roaring through my head like a freight train. I would get up at 5 am, unable to sleep, type like a madwoman for an hour or so, take a nap and then begin the kids to school/me to work routine.

Then I got sick and it took me 4 years to recover. During this time, I'd get the kids off to school, sleep until lunch, eat, type the 2 hours worth of story that had backfilled into my brain, nap until the kids got home, and then dinner and kids until bedtime.

Now that they're grown and in their own nests, you'd think I'd be writing non-stop, but somehow, I'm a bit floaty. I'm in a stage of revisions and proofing--Volume 1 for the past few months, and now Volume 2. It's a whole different mindset. It literally uses a different part of your brain. It will be interesting to see what happens when I tackle the rest of Volume 3.

One thing I have noticed is that my creativity as been at its most productive at the times when my personal life was the most miserable. Reading the lives of many writers, this seems to be not unusual... escaping from a life where things are not going to one's specifications into one where you have total control over events. But in my case, I'm not consciously controlling anything. It just sort of leaks out around the edges.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Persistence pays. There's so much advice out there, with half of it contradicting the other half. I found critique groups invaluable, but it needs to be a good critique group, one in which the members are devoted to making each other's work the best it can possibly be, not devolving into critiquing manuscripts as a metaphor for dissecting each other's personality flaws. Critiquing others' work teaches you to see things differently. It's not your baby, so it's easier to see the places where the work can be improved and then to apply those insights to your own work. Other people in the group will see things you never thought of and vice versa. Write, send things out, rejoice in your acceptances, don't let the rejections get you down, and don't think that one acceptance is a substitute for a day job.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

As a marketing newbie, my jury is still out on that. I've expanded my list of facebook friends, am learning the ins and outs of hashtags, connecting with folks who run faerie festivals and pagan events, making friends with local librarians, bookstore owners, and folks like Tony, my kind host here. And of course, working the fact that my book is published into casual conversation.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

I have no idea why I had my characters stop in Lancaster on their journey. There are certainly other English cities between Northumberland and Cornwall. In fact, they probably would have passed through York to get to Lancaster, but if they did, I didn't write about it. For reasons of plot, I not only had them stop in Lancaster, but wrote in a duchess who ruled in her own right. 

Years later, I discovered that at that particular time, Lancaster was ruled by Avice, Lady of Lancaster. (There's a piece about her on my blog, www.tfgray.com.) What's even more fun is that I gave her one son (again, plot reason) named Hubert and named one of the castle pages William. As it turns out, she did have a son...named William, so a little find/replace restored historical accuracy. She also had a daughter, who does not appear in Murdoch's Tale, who was married and living in Scotland by the time the events in the book occurred. That was weird.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Revealing that would be a spoiler. But I can say that I was so depressed after writing it that I didn't write a word for months. You'll know it when you read it.

What are you planning to write next?

Alana's Tale, Volume 2 of Corwin's Chronicle is just about ready to go to the editor. Volume 3, The Tale of Roderik and Sophie is about half written, and the final volume, The Tale of the Children, is still just a gleam in my eye.

Teri Gray


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About the Author

Teri Gray grew up in the Jersey 'burbs, twenty miles from Times Square, in a town too small to have a traffic light, wandering the forest, fantasizing about people living in holes in the ground, long after the other kids her age had outgrown that sort of childish nonsense. She came to writing like most everything else in her life. High school newspaper editor-in-chief followed by a degree in art ed, followed by a stint as editor of a small publication in Honolulu, in addition to a wide assortment of jobs ranging from restaurant hostess to bartender to field interviewer to postmistress relief to banking to her personal favorite, Communications Director of the Newark Food Co-op.  Along the way, wedged between work, raising three children, and the occasional bout of illness, she wrote. Eventually, she found out about the existence of critique groups and started actually learning how to write. She’s not an example of the breakthrough novelist. If anything, she’s an example of the motto, Persistence Pays. The child who was a toddler when she started writing Corwin’s Chronicle is now pushing thirty. She is a facilitator with the Alternatives to Violence Project, (www.avpusa.org) and has worked with the AVP program at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Find out more at Teri's website www.tfgray.com and find her in Facebook and Twitter @t_f_gray

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