Part Two of Druids Interview: Barb Galler-Smith

Alright – sorry for the delay, folks, but here’s the other half of the duo who makes up the Druids Trilogy. You can learn more about the trilogy by checking out Edge Publishing. I have to just throw out a special thank-you to Barb, who, a few years ago, was one of the editing guests of honor at Keycon in Winnipeg when I was pitching ToO to Champagne. I’ve been to a lot of writing groups so it wasn’t my first experience with editors chewing up manuscripts, and I just wanted to say that Barb spent more than her allotted time going through numerous manuscripts with aspiring writers at this conference – I was incredibly impressed by her professionalism and the time she spent with everyone. The advice she gave me helped so that I could make gaelic names sound authentic for an English audience. So… here we are about two and a half years later. Thanks Barb, you rock. 

1.       Warriors is the third in the Druids trilogy, so this has got to be a momentous occasion for you, launching this book.  What’s going through your mind right now?

My thoughts are contradictory.  The process was long and sometimes daunting, and some of the most fun and rewarding work I’ve ever done–so I’m sad that part is over. I’m also thrilled to finish what I think is a very good book, and I confess, a little bit relieved because  I’m eager to start on new projects.

2.       You both worked on all three books together.  So who did what?

 We worked so closely together that most of who wrote what is a blur. We conferred closely on the outline until we came up with a plotline that we both liked. We both wrote scenes from all the characters’ points of view and worked from an outline we both massaged into a story we both loved.  I recall a few scenes were almost entirely one or the other of us, and the others were worked I can’t recall who wrote the first rough draft of the scene.  I specifically recall writing scenes which involved rituals and visions and Josh writing a love scene which I was too embarrassed to write.  It was give and take so much that the voice of the narrative is unique, neither his nor mine as authors.

3.       Had this project always been a trilogy?  Was that the plan all along?  If yes, how did you sell the idea to Edge?  And if no, what was the evolution path of the Druids trilogy?

 The path was long and it was going to be a continuing series.  We still have characters wanting to tell their own story, based on the same magical elements.  It all started one World Fantasy convention when we decided to write a short story together with a character name Spaldeen (Josh’s idea).  The story developed from trolls and elves into Celtic magic.  We wrote Spaldeen’s story first, but ended up abandoning it to move backwards in time about 1200 years. It took a long time just to figure out how to make the magic work, and once we did that, we discovered our character Druid Mallec.

 We wrote Book 2 first and called it “Druids”.  Then book 3 (“Lovers”) which was all about love and war.  Then Josh phoned me up and told me we had to write another book about our Druidess Rhonwen’s life before she met Mallec.  I wasn’t enthusiastic but he said I should trust him, so I did.  The third book we wrote is now the first in the trilogy, “Druids”, and the original one was renamed “Captives”.  We still had hopes of a fourth book and had worked out many of the plot details. Then when we discovered it was to be put as a trilogy, we had to think fast and rework the last book to tie up all the “loose ends” we’d left for future books!

4.        In your opinion, which is easier to sell, a set of books or a stand-alone?

 The Druids Saga trilogy isn’t the “usual” kind of fantasy books.  There’s a lot of historical fiction there that made it a pretty hard sell to houses more used to publishing fantasy with magic swords and dragons.  And we weren’t “alternate history”.  We tried to stick to the known facts, even reading classical historians like Plutarch and Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, as well as archaeological and anthropological sources.  We started research before Wikipedia went online, so we also spent a lot of time in libraries!  We were determined to get the history as correct as possible.

5.       You two seem to be separated by a large geographical area, one being based in Atlanta and the other in Edmonton.  How did you two first get started on this collaboration?  And how did you work together?

 You should have seen my phone bill!  We talked a lot on the phone until we finally got voice over the internet. And emails.  Hundreds of emails with quick questions, detailed discussions, and everything in between. We also met a few times a year to work out details face to face that only brainstorming and beer can provide.   The actual writing process was simple.  Once we had an outline, we wrote scene by scene, with only the occasional insertion of something we missed in our original outline. We predetermined what plot point was needed and the purpose of the scene, as well as who was the point of view character. We agreed early that Mallec’s POV trumped everyone else’s.  Then one would write a scene, and the other would rewrite.edit as if the words were out very own.  That was weird at first, but turned out to work very well. There wasn’t a lot of arguing over phrasings, just tweak-tweak-tweak.  This doesn’t mean we didn’t argue–we did, and sometimes for days over a word or scene, but we always managed a settlement.

6.       Based on your interests, backgrounds, home towns and other stuff, you two seem to make for an odd partnership.  How do your differences impact your working relationship?

 

I think overall it worked very well.  Our differences helped us make the story deeper, the characters richer, and the world more believable.  Josh knew kids and how a parent feels. I knew about Celtic lore. Josh is amazing at dialog and I can do setting more easily.  It was a good mix of strengths.  In the end, we were both stronger and for that I am very grateful.

7.       Let’s say I want to partner up with someone else for a work of fiction.  What should I look for in a partner?  And what should I do to make sure I’m a good partner, too?

 Find someone who is not wedded to his or her priceless prose and who is willing to compromise. Someone who has clear ideas of why something should or should not be used, and who can give good reasons to back up an opinion.  I wrote a scene in Captives in which I killed off a character.  I cried. It was horrible and beautiful.  Josh even told me so, along with “we can’t use it… the death comes too soon and doesn’t serve a big enough purpose.  It’ll have more impact later.”  He was right, and the whole scene was pulled.  For that to happen, there has to be mutual trust… I trusted he was right and he trusted I wouldn’t be prissy about it (eventually.  I recall I didn’t give up the scene too easily!).  It’s difficult, especially in such a long project.

8.       Since yours is a cross-border partnership, how does that affect your marketing?

 It makes book signing and launches lonely affairs.  We have such different environments, and how books are marketed does vary with communities.  I’ve been meaning to ask if genre fiction is easier to sell in Canada than in Georgia.  Fortunately, our publisher has good distribution and so the books are available in all the usual places in both Canada and the USA and in all formats.

9.       And for that matter, who makes for a wider, more enthusiastic market?  Canadians or Americans?

 That’s so hard to tell and if we knew the answer, we’d probably be a lot more famous!

10.   Sure it’s a trilogy…but do you think there’s a chance of a book four?  Or is there a brand new project on the horizon?

 Book 4.  Hmmm.  We’ve actually discussed writing that book set in about 600 AD (called “Saints”), and it’s already well outlined and researched. We’ve also discussed several other story lines, one based on the last Druids in Britain and another on the lost settlement of Roanoke.  However, as we’re both working on a variety of other projects at the moment, a fourth isn’t very likely in the foreseeable future.  I would still like to revisit Spaldeen which would be Book 5!

Barbara Galler-Smith lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  She’s an award winner author, a long-time member of Edmonton’s largest speculative fiction writers group, The Cult of Pain, and co-founder of a group designed for emerging speculative fiction writers called The Scruffies.  She’s also a Fiction Editor for On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic. You can check out their website here. Along with US writer Josh Langston, she’s the author of The Druids Saga– an historical fantasy epic trilogy: Druids (2009), Captives (2011), Warriors (release date August 2013).

BGS

WARRIORS-Cover-FinalProof(C-2013-01-28)

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