I know we are all locked in and feeling disconnected, why not take the time to get some reading done. Discover some new adventures and even get to know the authors better.
Today we are going to get to now author R J Kaldanis a little better. You can even get a sneak peek at the book with The Unblessed Child storytime fb live
Welcome Thank you so much for taking the time to be part of my blog.
Growing up in North Queensland, Australia, R J struggled a lot with identity and forever felt out of place. It wasn’t until she started travelling that she began to feel the magic the world had to offer and her place within it all. Most recently inspired by her trips to Japan, Russia and the Dalmatian Coast led to her debut novel, The Unblessed Child.
Drawing heavily on childhood influences and the wondrous journeys they offered to distract her from living in poverty to a single father, R J hopes her books will offer others the same escape they need from the harsh realities of life
What can you tell us about The Unblessed Child series?
The Unblessed Child series is a bit of old and a bit of new. It’s similar to worlds such as Avatar: The Last Airbender in that the magic system is elemental, but it’s a new take on it. I wanted to focus on a character who wasn’t gifted, deemed magical or had anything extremely special about them. It shows a perspective that is often quiet in most other fantasy books – the focus is always on the hero who is astonishingly attractive and is a master of some elite skill by the age of 16. I find those stories really hard to relate to, because the characters are written as being incredibly gifted, ‘blessed’ some might say, and it’s just not the reality of how most people go through life. The Unblessed Child is meant to be real in the issues and struggles the people of the world deal with, but fantasy in the setting. To me, it was important to focus on being inclusive, on really putting into the story what I value as a human being – things such as poverty, mental illness, lgbtqia+ themes, discrimination and ostracism all play a part in the world and story.
Can you give us any sneak peeks on what you are going to be working on next?
Already working on the second book. It’s been amazing getting the feedback of what people felt they were missing, or wanted more of and I’m definitely taking all that constructive criticism on board and moulding the next book. It will focus on a different character and will be entitled, The Fire Blessed Fugitive. Of course the main characters from book one will definitely play a major role in it, but I wanted to share the love a bit and focus on others viewpoints.
Where did the idea for The Unblessed Child come from?
Travelling! I have always loved travelling overseas and really immersing myself in the different cultures. I think there are so many incredible and unique folk tales, fashion and architecture that is left out from fantasy as a lot of authors focus on the western world, or norse and celtic mythology only. I think that’s why Game of Thrones was so popular – it pulled in elements from various cultures around the world and really widened the scope of what fantasy “looked like”.
Are your characters based or influenced on people you know?
Definitely haha. The people closest in my life have come to me several times and outright told me who they think the character is based on, with great accuracy. I think we write what we know. My father in particular is a massive influence in my life, and obviously the character Pateras is pretty similarly aligned to him (protruding belly and all).
Who was the hardest character to write?
Aardriyah. Mainly because she’s the character who most resembles me (albeit a younger version) and is also the character who has received the most criticism. I think it’s hard to put yourself into a character and out into the world and even harder when that character isn’t loved. That being said, I’m hoping to explore much more of why she is the way she is and of course she needs a character arc, so it’s important to not completely change a character in the first book of a series – it needs to be a journey.
What is the first book that made you cry?
The Butterfly Lion – Michael Morpurgo. We had to read it in Grade 7 I think and I loved it and read it again every now and then. It’s a beautiful story about a white lion, world war and love in hard times. It’s aimed at MG readers, but it’s so beautifully written.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the hardest thing to get over, is just sticking to it. The rate of people who start a book versus the rate of people who finish a book is ridiculously low. You just need to chip away at it, hold yourself accountable. I first uploaded each chapter on FictionPress and it motivated me as people were asking when the next chapter would be up.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You don’t need to be drunk to write! I’ve been sober for about 2 years now, but I had this horribly detrimental mindset that I was at my creative best when I was drunk and depressed.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I previously started two other books and haven’t finished them (yet) but they are very dark books, aimed at a completely different audience. I kept putting them off because I had to be ‘in the right mind set’ or the stars had to align. This book, I wrote quite quickly (three months) but it was also because I treated it like a job, or an assignment. I did tonnes of research, I wrote down everything that inspired me, colour coded various books with sticky notes, I ran ideas past my stepmum, husband and brother etc. I really allocated time to write x amount of words by x date, which I had never previously done. The other big thing for me was being careful with who you get to edit your work as unfortunately the person I paid did a really poor job, so I had to go back myself along with beta writers and reviewers and put in hours and hours of revision, which is nowhere near as fun as writing.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My mum used to read us The Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton and I remember spending a lot of my childhood wishing it was all real, that there was this other world like she described. It was a great coping mechanism while dealing with a pretty hard childhood.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Not that I think it’s under appreciated, but one of my all time favourites is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. I think it’s definitely lost popularity over time, but it’s a beautiful read and really reminds you of that magic of childhood and how children have an uncanny ability to view the world in a completely different light.
What does literary success look like to you?
Good question. I suppose being able to do it as living and quit my day job, but I think that day is a bit far off.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I’m a bit of a nerd – I’m always watching documentaries, reading non-fiction books and perusing the internet for inspiration. For this series, a lot of the research has been rooted in folklore and tales from different parts of the world, as well as architecture, fashion and religion. I would say I spent about 50 hours if not more doing research, but not necessarily all the at the start, it was throughout the process. It is also based on personal experiences of travelling to the places that inspired some of the lands within the book. For instance, Veros is based on Greece which I visited last year (my husband is also Greek so that helps); therefore I’d look at the country/region that inspired me and then do research on their local mythology/folklore and try to include that in the story. Hence why we meet a Hydra and Sirens off what is essentially the mediterannean coast. Then when they get to the Slavic inspired areas, they encounter things such as a Baba Yaga and Domovoy.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I don’t write full time (not yet). I actually work in business banking and just finished my MBA last year. The dream is to write full time, but I’m not sure when that will happen.
Do you Google yourself?
Funny story – my maiden name is ‘Hall’. When I googled Rebecca Hall, the actress always came up. I originally wasn’t going to change my name when I got married but I did, as my husband’s family are the only Kaldanis’ in Australia and therefore I’m unique! But no, I don’t google myself haha maybe if my writing achieves success.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
My sweet tooth or coffee addiction.
What is your favorite childhood book?
The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson-Burnett.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The research and editing.
Lastly is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I don’t think they exist but I would like to say thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read it, it’s a really humbling experience to know people have valued your work enough to read it in this day and age where there are so many distractions and so many great books and authors out there.
Would you like to win a copy of The Unblessed Child?
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