Interview with Veronica Merlin, by Noel Heart.
Hello and thank you very much for doing this.
You are the author of The Starstone series. A series of 5 books, you have already published the first 2, The Hand of Fate and The twins. Can you tell me anything about those two books for those who haven´t read them?
Yes, it’s fantasy, basically. Dark, cruel, heartbreaking, loving, passionate… I could keep talking about them forever, so I find it very hard to choose what to say. The curse of a writer who loves all of her characters deeply, I guess. It’s not exactly standard fantasy, I have no good vs evil, and I come across quite a few subjects that relate to our world such as child abuse, drug addiction and homosexuality, just to mention a few. I am a critical kind of writer as well as person. I must always strive to get my point across and to make people think about the world they live in.
I read The Starstone, The Hand of Fate, and I fell in love with Lien, she is a very strong minded young lady, can you tell a bit more about her and the other characters?
Lien, well, she is a bastard child, growing up in the elven city of Eilad with her twin sister Cazal. The two of them are based on me and a girl I grew up with. Everyone thought we were twins when we were kids, but as we grew up we stopped looking alike, and we completely grew apart. As a writer I find that all of my characters are a shade of me somehow. They all matter greatly to me, even the less lovable ones. I have so many characters it would take far too long to describe all of them, but I always loved Nahoris, my young elven wizard, and his uncle Thalid. They are a perfect light and shadow example, one dark, one light, and in the end both of them just a shade of grey.
I remember you telling me a lot about the character Valo to the point where when I read the book; I guessed who he was by the description you had given me. What inspired you to create him?
I did? To be honest I don’t remember talking much about Valo, but then again I have a lousy memory sometimes. Valo is a half elf, and I guess if someone inspired him at the very beginning it was Tanis from Dragon Lance. I am a huge fan of Tanis, and I couldn’t imagine writing a fantasy series without my own half elf. Still, they turned out to be very different in the end. The name I kind of stole from the Finnish singer Ville Valo, but you must have guessed that. My Valo is nothing like Ville though, and I just used the name because Valo means ‘light’, and it fits him very well.
One of the things I love most about your books is that not everything is just black and white. Just because a character seems evil at first, depending on who´s eyes you see it through; don´t necessarily mean they are evil. You tell the story from both sides. So, as a reader I get the feeling that the front line is clear, and both sides fight for what they feel is the right thing. So it is kind of a grey area where not everything is as it seems at first. Why did you choose to write the story like that?
I hate the old notion that fantasy must be black and white. Good vs evil, stuff like that. I love to display all sides of a story; I like to portray the characters as three- dimensional as people who think and feel and have reasons for everything they do. It is very important to me that all my characters are displayed fairly, and that you as a reader get a chance to understand them, even if they do things that might come across as evil, really evil sometimes. They always have a reason; they are always able to justify it to themselves.
You already finished writing the last 3 books when will they be published? Can you tell anything about them?
I could tell you loads. First off, they are called the Crown Prince, the Unicorns Horn and the Shadow of Time. The Crown Prince is in editing and translation, being translated into Danish and will be out by fall this year if everything goes according to plan. I must admit I am a bit nervous about releasing the Crown Prince. It is a very raw and cruel book in many ways. I hardly dared send it to editing… I have been looking it over a thousand times, wondering if I should change it, soften it up, streamline it, but every time I try I just can’t. It has to be the way it is.
When did you first know, you wanted to be an author?
I have always been an author. I have always had stories in my head, always told stories, written stories, and it was the first dream I ever had as a child. I always wanted to write, and I always did write.
You are a horse girl, and you have 4 horses, and just got a little foal. I read a lot about them on your blog all the time. All of your horses have personality. Can you tell me about them?
Oh, don’t get me started on my horses! How much time do you have? No, my boyfriend and I have Saleem, our young Arabian gelding. He is six this summer. I broke him in last year, but we have had a lot of problems with him since he is a ‘head shaker.’ We are working it out though; he has got a good heart and a very mild personality.
Apocalipse is his son, and the son of my old, now deceased, mare Amalia. Apocalipse is turning three this year, so he is too young to be ridden yet, but he is absolutely my future star. His mother was a huge jumping talent, and I have high hopes for him as well.
Marble Dane is my two year old thoroughbred mare. She is rather aggressive, having been sick a lot she believes that she needs to defend herself at all times. Still, I am certain there is a very nice little girl underneath it all; I just need to find her.
Tardis is my four year old Arabian mare. We only just got her last October when I realized that my old dressage horse Apollon was failing. Tardis just had the most beautiful foal, a stallion named Ablaze. I am looking forward to getting to know him and to breaking in Tardis, hopefully this fall, once she is done being a mother full time.
You just finished writing a book on Natural Horsemanship. In it you tell the stories of your own horses, I have had the pleasure of meeting Apollon, who I know cost you a lot of trouble along with his brother Poseidon. As far as I can understand, they both had a rough start in life. Can you tell a bit about that?
Poseidon had a terrible start in life. He was kept tied up and isolated for two full years until I bought him and got him out of the stable where he was born. It never stopped haunting him, and I learned almost everything I know about Natural Horsemanship while trying to make this horse adjust to the world and live a happy life. I had him for fifteen years, and I dare say we did very well. In the end his body grew old and worn out, but he had a good life with me most of the time.
Apollon was never mistreated, luckily, but he always had health issues, and we never knew why. We kept running blood tests and any other kind of tests we could imagine, trying to find out why he would run a fever every other month, but we never got an answer. His immune system was flawed for some reason, and in the end it failed completely. My vets and I fought it every step of the way, but we did come up short last year, and I had to have him euthanized to spare him further pain.
Poseidon and Apollon are names from the Greek mythology, why did you choose those names?
I always loved Greek mythology, and it just fitted them. Poseidon is the god of the ocean, the wild, untamed, hot tempered god who you do not cross. Apollon (the Danish name for Apollo,) is the beautiful, cunning, clever god of the sun. In every possible way, these names were just right for my two boys.
In your book about Natural Horsemanship, you tell the stories of all the horses you have had, and what happen to them. You train them all on your own, can you tell a bit about how you train them?
I tell their story because every one of their stories is different. The book is entitled “My Heart, My Soul, My Star, My Endless Night”, and I started writing it last year when Poseidon was euthanized. It was meant to be mostly about him, because his story was so special and so cruel, but when I started writing it I realized that all of their stories are unique.
I don’t think I can describe Natural Horsemanship briefly so that anyone can understand if they don’t already know what it is, but basically it means working with your horse without using force. No shouting and screaming or beating the poor animal. Natural Horsemanship is about understanding the horse, and making it understand you without scaring it into submission.
The book is going through editing later this year, and will be out next year at some point. I just need time to add instructional pictures and stuff like that, but I have finished writing it by now.
You have a blog on wordpress that I very much enjoy to read, you tell very openhearted about your horses and your life, what happens, what’s going on and so on. A year or so ago you wrote this story, The Hillflower Story, in 13 chapters, just there and then, you couldn´t go back and change anything, you had to have the storyline and everything under control. How was it to write like that, and how did you come up with the story?
It started as a bit of a joke, I didn’t think I could do it. I mean, I am not a crime fiction writer. Still, I had the basic for the story come to me in a sort of nightmarish dream, and I woke up thinking: ‘I could work with that!’ So I wrote the first chapter on my blog, and it went well, so I wrote the second, and then I realized that I had trapped myself because now it was public, and I had to finish it. That was kind of terrifying. When I write books, I can always go back and change something if I realize that it won’t fit the story line in the end… With this one, being public right from the start, I had to make it work out. It was a great challenge, and it worked out quite well. I am releasing a short story collection at some point, and I am planning on including the Hillflower story simply because I grew to love it along the way.
You have also published a poetry collection called This Song, and it is a very beautiful collection. I always come to think of the poem In The Rose Shaped Shadow, I know the poem means a lot too, can you tell why?
In the Rose Shaped Shadow is a very personal poem or song if you like. It is a song. All of what I write is very personal no matter if it is fantasy or lyrics or poems or anything else. This particular song was written to a childhood friend of mine who committed suicide. The collection is dedicated to her as well.
You played in the band Whatever as a teenager. You told me you were starting to play a bit again with the band. Do you have any plan for the future, or is it just for fun now?
Whatever was always just for fun. The girls and I love each other dearly, but we never had star dreams. We play together perfectly, we sing together in three part harmony, and we love our music. Of course it would be nice to become big pop stars, but let’s be honest. We are past thirty all of us; we are far too old to make it in that world by now. I am really glad that we have stuck together all these years though, those girls mean the world to me.
Back when you where a teenager, you played some gigs, what happened, and why did you split up?
That wasn’t with Whatever. I sung in a band named Greystone – don’t ask me why – and yes, we did split up for totally rock’n’roll reasons. Our guitar player just disappeared. Dropped off the face of the earth. He texted me about a year later saying he was sorry, but he had gone to rehab and had to break it off with us. We were like, what? None of us were doing any kind of drugs, but I guess it was the whole rock scene he just needed to get away from.
I played lead guitar in another band after Greystone named Indigo. It was horrible. I am not a guitar player. I mean, I was pretty good before I broke my hand, but it was never really what I wanted to do, and it showed in the way I played.
Most of the poems you have composed music to. Do you consider recording some of them?
I always consider recording them. I think we will at some point, with Whatever. I hope we will. But life keeps getting in the way…
What was the first instrument you played?
Flute. I was pretty good too. But I have happily forgotten everything about it by now. I still play guitar though.
You told me a young boy from USA, just asked if he could compose music for some of your songs. Can you tell me the story?
I met him on face book, through a Silmarillion fan page. We kind of just started talking a bit, and he read the Hand of Fate and the Twins and loved them, and so he bought This Song as well and asked if he could use some of the lyrics for his music. Of course they are copyrighted, but I said yes, as long as he would credit me for the lyrics. How could I be anything but flattered to have touched someone that much by my words of course he could play them anyway he wanted. Almost.
At the moment you are working on a very different fantasy novel: “The Kiss, the Dragon and The Werewolf” with me. How is it to work with somebody else? Can you tell me a bit about the story?
It is great fun, mostly. I don’t think I have laughed so much in a long time as I do every time you send the book back to me. I love how your mind works, how completely insane we both are, and how we can keep surprising each other. It is a bit of a challenge as well, to not be in control of the story, to have someone else have equal power to take the story in a direction I may not have expected. It teaches you a lot about your skills as a writer as well as a team player.
The story itself is written in a light tone, it feels rather random at times, but it really isn’t. We have an alcoholic unicorn, a dragon with a lousy aim and a werewolf that can’t run very fast, just to mention a few… the greatest challenge for me has been handling the Green Fairy, (pun intended,) because she is so far from anything I could ever have come up with myself, but again, I have learned a lot from writing this book, and I can’t wait to see it released.
We talked about making the novel into a movie, so if I offered you a part in it now, who would you play and why? And who do you see in the other parts? Who would you like to direct it?
Oh I don’t know how to answer that. I would love to play the werewolf, but I am not an actor. I have played a lot of theater, and I was told I was pretty good at it, but it was never my thing, I don’t like it. Still, if I must dream big, it would be pretty awesome to have Jared Leto play one of the characters… just because we kind of created him in his image, or should I say inspired by a picture of him.
Here I should say that I would want my boyfriend direct it, Aston Merlin from Dark Mare Pictures, but I don’t think I would want him to. I am pretty sure he is far too serious for this story; he would never understand our humour…
You are born and raised in Denmark, how was it, growing up?
I was sick a lot as a child. Still am. Growing up haven’t been much fun. I hated school. I dropped out very early on, and no one called me on it. I was about twelve I think, when I stopped going to school, and no one noticed until years later. I guess I just got lost in the system, and I loved it. Going to school was never my kind of thing, I can’t pass the grades, simply because the thought of having to spend my time studying for something I don’t find interesting will make me cry instantly. I can learn anything I want if it interests me, but stuff like math for instance… not going to happen.
You have 5 horses, a boyfriend and cats. How do you get the time to write as much as you do?
I have no idea. Mostly I write at night, so I guess what I don’t do is sleep.
Did anyone inspire you to write, and if, who and why?
Alexander Dumas, I was always a huge fan of the Three Musketeers ever since I was a very little kid. My granddad had a very old and big version of the book, written on parchment and leather bound. I used to love that book to bits and make my mom read it to me over and over again until I got old enough to read it myself.
Tolkien as well has been a huge influence on me as well as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and I must admit J. K. Rowling. I adore Harry Potter even if I could never write anything like it myself.
You listen to a lot of music, who is your favourite bands?
There are so many. The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Donovan, Phil Ochs… and to be a bit more from my own time: HIM, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Rasmus, The 69 Eyes, Negative, My Chemical Romance, The Ark, Hannah Montana … I am sure I am forgetting someone really important, but I could go on forever. I love music. Real music played on instruments. Nothing electronic.
Who were you heroes growing up?
Jim Morrison and Athos from the Three Musketeers. I’ve always been an odd child.
If you could invite 3 people, living or dead, to a dinner party who would they be and why?
Again, I would love to invite Jim Morrison. I guess it’s hard to get over your first hero. He would have to be there. I adore him for his song writing. I grew up hoping that one day I could be half as good as him.
Phil Ochs would have to be there too. Again, I adore the man for his song writing, his amazing singing voice, and I absolutely envy him for his astounding skills with a guitar. This guy was so brilliant, so talented, I would love to get a chance to tell him off for killing himself in the end. It seems so unreasonable that someone with so many skills would be so unhappy while the rest of us struggle along with our mediocre talents.
J.R.R Tolkien would have to be the last. I would love to meet him to pick his extraordinary brain, and to beg and plead for a chance for Dark Mare Pictures to make a fair and true -to -the -book series of movies based on the Silmarillion. You know, nothing like Peter Jacksons LOTR trilogy. The elves would actually speak Quenya or Sindarin, stuff like that. A fair version for the geeks. It doesn’t hurt to dream right?
Do you find that networking, such as Face Book, Twitter and the likes makes it easier to reach a wider audience when it comes to promoting your work?
In a way. I sure meet a lot of people from all over the world. That has been rather amazing. Face Book makes it easy as does my blog on WordPress, Starstone. I have a Twitter as well, but I am a bit too slow, I can’t really figure out how it works. Maybe I am just too old by now to learn stuff like that…
In a perfect world, what would your future look like? What are your hopes and dreams?
In a perfect world I would live on a deserted island in my own castle surrounded by a huge wall and a moat, just me and my horses. Okay and my cats and maybe my boyfriend and a few of my friends… But I am a loner, I like to be able to disappear and just be me and my writing. In a perfect world I would have a lot of money and be able to buy and save all the mistreated and misunderstood horses I came across. But then again, in a perfect world no horses would be mistreated.
No, it would be nice to one day be able to support myself completely by selling my books. That would be a real dream come true for me.
Any advice you would like to offer upcoming writers on writing and publishing?
Write. Finish what you are writing. Keep writing till the end. I see a lot of writers get stuck half way through and never finish their books. Write. There is nothing more important.
Self publishing is rather easy, Amazon makes it easy to set up the e-books, and Lulu.com prints some beautiful versatile paperbacks. The hard thing is promoting. You have to be patient and trust your work.
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, I would like to thank everyone who has stood by me through the years, my mom, my boyfriend, my loyal friends… I know I am not always an easy person to figure out or to be around, and even if I am a loner, and I keep saying that I am best on my own, that is not entirely true. I wouldn’t have been where I am today without each and every one of you.
Thank you so much for your time and good luck in the future.
Right back at you!
All of Veronica’s books are available on Amazon as an e-book/kindle and on Lulu.com as a paperback.
The Hand of Fate Hardcover;
The Hand of Fate, E-book;
The Twins paperback;
The Twins, E-book;
This Song paperback;
This Song, E-book;
And in Danish;
Skæbnens Hånd i paperback;
Tvillingerne i paperback;