Author interview Glenda Larke
Glenda was born in Western Australia, the daughter of a farmer. She was educated at the University of Western Australia, where she obtained a degree in history and a diploma in education. Married to a Malaysian scientist, she lived for several decades in Malaysia, including a stint in Borneo, where she was actively involved in rainforest and bird conservation. She has also lived in Austria and Tunisia, but has now settled on the coast of Western Australia, not far from an osprey nest.
Hi Glenda, Welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.
GL: Thanks for having me along!
BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Glenda Larke is? What are you hobbies, likes and dislikes?
GL: I’m an Australian by birth, and it’s now also my country of residence. However, I’ve spent the greater part of my adult life elsewhere, in Malaysia, Austria and Tunisia. The two great passions in my life, writing and birdwatching, date from childhood interests and ultimately became twin careers much later in life: fantasy author and working on the conservation of rainforest avifauna. In between times, I taught English as a second language... Dislikes? People who don’t understand you cannot legislate belief.
BP: You have written quite a few books before, the Watergivers series, Isles of Glory and Mirage Makers series. The Forsaken Lands, featuring The Lascar’s Dagger as the first book, is your newest series. What gave you the idea/inspiration behind The Lascar’s Dagger?
GL: For me, inspiration is always multi-facetted. The plot of the book plays out against a background of western nations looking at sea trade with an eastern world as a way to replace cumbersome overland caravans. The trade in spices and bird of paradise plumes were real parts of our own world history and they inspired parts of my book.
The kris (the dagger of the title) is a part of the cultural heritage of my husband and therefore of my children. The thirty years I spent in Malaysia, during which I stayed and worked in diverse places--including villages, tropical islands and rainforests--provided many ideas. As part of my ornithological work, I saw the intricate dance and heard the glorious songs of some of the most beautiful birds in the world. I learned to cook with Asian spices and coconut milk, wear a sarong, speak the language and follow the traditions. Even though the greater part of this trilogy is set in the western countries of my world, the plot is both inspired by, and a tribute to, the Asian part of my life and to my own remarkable Asian family.
BP: Lascar’s Dagger is out next March, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
GL: When cultures clash, so does the magic...
BP: Having gained a lot of experience with your earlier books, were you able to use it when you were writing Lascar’s Dagger?
GL: Absolutely. First books often have a special verve or freshness to them, but experience counts too.
BP: What was the hardest part when you were writing Lascar’s Dagger? Did you encounter any specific problems?
GL: The hardest part was to solve a technical problem: in the beginning, the lascar of the title can’t speak the language of the foreign land he inhabits. When I wrote down his speech as he might have sounded, he ended up sounding like an idiot. (Having been in that situation -- a foreigner in a foreign land sounding like an idiot, three separate times with three different languages -- I sympathise!) The problem was to convey an intelligent man, but one who can’t speak the language properly yet.
BP: Besides the hardest part, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
GL: I loved writing the very first scene because that was the first one I had clearly in my mind and much of the rest of the book springs from that one scene. In it, the lascar of the title encounters the “European” hero of the trilogy for the first time. The setting is a spice warehouse. They have both separately broken into the building, and everything goes downhill fast from there...
BP: If you would be given the chance to retract The Lascar’s Dagger from publishing and make one final adjustment, would you do so? And if yes, which part and why?
GL: I put a midshipman on a non-naval ship... I’d correct that mistake. Please ignore that slip-up as you read, ok? (I’m sure there are other errors; there are always things that slip past the author, the copy editor and the proof reader. Always.)
BP: A lot of your books have been nominated for the Aurealis Awards and have made it to the final round. Did this add pressure when you were writing your new book The Lascar’s Dagger?
GL: Believe me, awards are the last thing I think about when I’m writing anything!
BP: The Lascar’s Dagger does draw some influences from our own history, did you have to carry out any specific research into the history of the spice trade etc, to keep certain facts correct or to verify them?
GL: The Forsaken Lands trilogy is neither an historical fantasy nor an alternative history. It is rather a book set in a fantasy world evocative of both a period in time (our 17th & 18th centuries) and an age in our history (the dawn of Western colonial expansion), so yes, it did involve a lot of research. The world and history of The Forsaken Lands is, however, mine.
I read non-fiction books on spices, the spice trade, birds of paradise and pre-industrial household crafts; I consulted books on European flowering plants and freshwater fish. I watched videos on some of those those topics. I went on board two replica sailing ships, Endeavour and Duyfken. I studied maps and examined designs and models of ships of the period, and how they were rigged (there’s one scene where a character has an interesting encounter up in the rigging of an anchored privateer). I went to several maritime museums, in particular the wonderful one in Fremantle, where there are numerous artifacts from the wreck of the Batavia, and parts of the ship itself. Much of this research was never used -- but, oh, it was interesting!
BP: The Lascar’s Dagger is the first in a new series. Have you already mapped out how many books The Forsaken Lands will run?
GL: It’s a trilogy. I’ve never tried anything larger than that.
BP: Can you give us a short sneak peek as to what we can expect in the future books of The Forsaken Lands?
GL: Book 1 is almost entirely set in lands my fantasy ‘Europe’. Book 2 is nearing completion and will probably be titled The Dagger’s Path. It should be out next year. Half of this volume is set in a place evocative of the spice islands of eastern Indonesia. (I hope Indonesian/Malaysians will forgive me for borrowing some words from their language and using them in my fantasy world!). Book 3 brings the dagger and the lascar back to the ‘European’ side of things for the climax.
BP: Do you have any other projects besides The Forsaken Lands that you would like to pursue in the near future?
GL: One of these days I will revisit the world of my first published book, Havenstar.
BP: Everyone enjoys reading and writing fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about the fantasy genre?
GL: As a reader, fantasy transports me to another world away from the problems of this one, which means its entertainment value is terrific. As a writer, fantasy enables me to explore the limits of human endurance and portray the moral problems of this world through another lens, which means the portrayal is less confrontational to the reader. I think it is actually easy to become immersed in a fantasy world than it is something set in the reality of our own world!
BP: And just lastly, if you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
GL: I have read very widely through many genres and mainstream fiction, as well as non-fiction, over a period of decades. There’s far too many favourites to single out five. I can tell you the last book I read, though, which I adored. It’s written by Karen Miller, titled The Falcon Throne and due out later this year. It is the first book in a series entitled The Tarnished Crown. It’s a spectacular, visceral work of epic fantasy and I suspect it will one of the best books I read all year. And I’d say that even if she wasn’t a friend of mine!
BP: Thank you for your time Glenda and good luck with writing the rest of The Forsaken Lands series!