Our Interview with Gwen Perkins!

Image of Gwen Perkins                                   The Universal Mirror

Gwen Perkins is a museum curator with a MA in Military History from Norwich University. She has written for a number of magazines, exhibitions and nonfiction publications. Her interest in history fueled the creation of the world of The Universal Mirror, inspired in part by people and events of the medieval and Renaissance periods. She lives with her partner and three children in Tacoma, WA.
Bio provided by author’s site
1.       What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
Most of my inspiration comes from history.  I work at a museum and I’m constantly researching different periods of history, events, and figures.  It’s not infrequent that I scribble down an idea from a post-it note and then use that to fuel something else I’m working on.  The connections may not be obvious to anyone but me but there you have it.
Documentaries likewise spark a lot of thought, simply because the visual information they provide often gives me a springboard for physical description.  And there’s great ideas to be found there as well especially in unexpected places.  My family just watched a documentary on corn, for instance, and while I laughed at them, I also found myself riveted to the screen when the voiceover began discussing corn’s explosive properties.  Who knew?
2.       Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters?  Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
I used to be a freeform writer and then I never finished anything.  What I’ve since evolved into is something between organization and chaos.  I write a complete outline of plot before I begin a story and set a schedule that I then write to.  As part of the schedule, I plan weeks where I revisit the outline to rewrite it as I need for those times when characters take over and derail the plot.
There is one exception to this, however—I don’t plot romances at all but let those develop organically.  I learned this after writing The Universal Mirror.  Originally, I’d planned for a romance to develop between Meg and Asahel, two characters in the novel.  I couldn’t have been more wrong as to who Asahel ultimately ended up attracted to (though to avoid spoiling readers for the second book, I’ll reserve further comment.  I’m sure some readers will guess.).
3.       What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
I write every single day.  I don’t have a schedule for when that happens—it might be at my lunch hour at work or two words before I fall asleep but every single day, I put something on a page that has to do with my current project.
4.       Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?
I read so much that I don’t believe I can say that I have a true “favorite.” 
One of the earliest fantasy authors I read was C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia, books that have definitely influenced me in both writing and in life.  As a child, I was captivated by the epic grandeur of the story and the nobility that many of the characters display, as well as the redemption themes that run through the novels.  As I became an adult and learned some of the story behind Narnia, I found Lewis’ ability to use metaphor in his storytelling just remarkable.  Every time I read one of the books, I learn something new about myself from his story.  To me, that’s the mark of a truly great author. 
5.       It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
I’m not terribly fond of self-promotion where it pertains to the social media aspects that seem to be a part of writing now.  I see a lot of authors who maintain distance using these devices—Facebook, Twitter, etc—just to blast out announcements and that’s something I’m really struggling with, to be honest.
I prefer just to “friend” everyone and chat with them as I have time rather than consistently seeing my online media spaces as a method of self-promotion.  I love the new viewpoints and perspectives that I get from making new friends online and that’s how I’ve chosen to approach it.  However, that’s sometimes difficult to do given my own limited amount of time and I worry a little about finding that balance.  I’m sure I will, given time.  Part of the joy in this process for me has been how much encouragement I can give to other new writers and to meeting readers as well.
6.       Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?
I do, although it can be a struggle.  I tend to read several books at once.  Sitting on my desk right now are Blood, Book 1 of the Brotherhood Saga by Kody Boye and The Knightly Art of Battle by Ken Mondschein.  Blood, I’m reading for pleasure.  The Knightly Art of Battle is part of the historical research I’m doing to create the finer details of my current work-in-progress, The Jealousy Glass.
7.       How did you get started in writing about adventure fantasy? Is there personal life experience in the writing?
I like the escapism of it, for one.  I became more invested in this genre, however, after finishing my MA thesis on Byzantium and the Fourth Crusade.  While I didn’t work that history intensively into The Universal Mirror, it plays a major role in its sequel. 
Because of the world that I’ve created, my life experience comes into play mostly through the character dynamics.  I like to paint my characters in shades of grey, simply because, in my experience, that’s what life is and I think that comes through particularly in Mirror where the protagonists make some hard, if unexpected, choices.
 8.     Your books have been published with Amazon.com and Kindle Direct Publishing? Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
Yes and no.  I think we are going to see e-books become more prevalent, particularly as resource scarcity becomes an issue.  How that shakes out is going to depend on how bookstores react to Amazon and whether or not the present self-publishing craze lasts.  I personally believe that it will—the art of the memoir has never really died and to some extent, this speaks to that very human drive to immortalize one’s self.  A drive that I think is both commendable and that sets us apart from other species.
However, we haven’t seen the end of the printed book.  You can’t replace the feel or smell of the written page with an e-reader, particularly in genres like children’s literature.  I don’t think that we’ll see parents grabbing their Kindles to read to their children for quite some time and as long as younger generations associate reading printed books with love and comfort, literature will remain in that physical form.
8.       Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
The easiest place to find me is to look through my website at http://theuniversalmirror.com.  I frequently post updates, author interviews, and excerpts of what I’m working on at my blog and on the social media linked there.  Plus, I love to talk to people so I hope that readers will feel comfortable looking at the site and following me at the place of their choosing.
9.       Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
he Universal Mirror is the first in a series called Artifacts of Empire.  I’m currently working on the second novel in the series, The Jealousy Glass, which takes two characters from Mirror and sends them across the waters to the Anjduri Empire where they get into all kinds of trouble.  It’s heavily action-oriented and I’m really enjoying that aspect of the novel.  (Particularly because it gives me a great excuse to learn more about Western martial arts!)
10.   Who would be your first choice to play Quentin from your book “The Universal Mirror”?
This is a funny question since I do “cast” novels in my head.  However, I often think of my characters as actors for the qualities that the “actors” might have rather than their literal physical appearance.  I’d actually always pictured Quentin as looking something like the director Paul Thomas Anderson as I was writing him.
Everyone’s mileage varies, however.  When I mentioned to a reader that I’d always pictured Wil Wheaton as Felix, she said “Oh, no, Felix is more BLOND.”  So there you have it.  I’d be curious myself to see how other readers cast the movie.
11.   If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?
The last man on earth. 
As to what question?  “How did you get here?”