Interview with Gwenda Bond, Author of Blackwood

Gwenda Bond is the author of Blackwood, a launch title for Strange Chemistry, a new imprint of Angry Robot Books.  I am so excited to have Gwenda at the Cafe today!  Read on to learn about both Gwenda and her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Gwenda Bond] A wise-cracking southern dame who likes champagne, old movies, and good books—and who is clearly terrible at writing short bios like this.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Blackwood?

[Gwenda Bond] Blackwood is a fantasy set on a fictionalized version of present-day Roanoke Island, but very much influenced by the real island and its history. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the story, in 1587 John White left more than a hundred men, women, and children who were forming the first permanent English colony in the Americas on the island while he went on a supply trip to England; when he returned three years later he could find no trace of them except for the word CROATOAN carved into a tree. Blackwood follows two teens, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling, as they are drawn into a disappearance of the same number of people—114—now, and discover they both have ties to the original colonists’ disappearance. There’s law enforcement intrigue, a mysterious weapon, and a little (nerdy) romance.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Gwenda Bond] The concept came first with this one, on a road trip to visit friends in North Carolina. It was very late at night, and one of the things I love about that drive are all the unusual place names you get on road signs, so I pay close attention to them. At some point, there was a sign marking the way to the not-unusually named Roanoke. It was to Roanoke, Virginia, of course, but for some reason it made me think immediately of the Lost Colony. I asked my husband Christopher, who was driving, “Hey, have you ever read a Lost Colony book set now? What if there was a disappearance of the same number of people on current Roanoke Island?” But developing that concept, aka figuring out what the solution to the centuries-old mystery was, took several more years of having the idea and a beginning rattling around in the back of my subconscious. Miranda and Phillips were there from the time I sat down to start writing, though of course they changed as I got to know them better. But I always knew I wanted this book to be, among other things, an unconventional romance. So the characters had to be not just right, but right for each other, at least at this stage in their lives.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Miranda?

[Gwenda Bond] Brave, funny, and trapped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Phillips would never have in his pocket?

[Gwenda Bond] Oh, this is a tough one! It would probably be easier to come up with odd things he would have in his pocket. But, let’s see… Cigarettes, a fan club membership card for The Vampire Diaries, or incriminating evidence.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Miranda’s single most prized possession?

[Gwenda Bond] I’d have to say her mother’s sewing machine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Gwenda Bond] I’m a cultural omnivore, which is a fancy way of saying I read and watch and listen to a lot of different things. I very much feel like all fiction (all art, really) is part of an ever-expanding conversation. So one day I’ll read a category romance novel and listen to Metric, the next day I might be watching episode after episode of Revenge (which I just discovered), followed by a bunch of screwball comedies from the ‘30s and ‘40s with a fantasy novel on the side. The work of other people—dead and alive, now and then—is a huge influence, basically. Being part of that cultural give and take inspires me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Gwenda Bond] I’m about as unfussy in terms of rituals and requirements for writing as it’s possible to be. I actually finished the first draft of Blackwood in a car on the way to the World Fantasy Convention, typing on something called an Alphasmart Neo that’s basically a smart keyboard with no internet access and a screen that only shows four lines. So I’d say: a story I want to tell, a little space of time (better if it’s at least a half-hour), and some idea what happens next.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Gwenda Bond] Recommending reading material is my favorite sport, so I don’t have to name just one, do I? (I would cry.) Some recent favorites are G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen, Robin Wasserman’s The Book of Blood and Shadow (bonus: Team Alchemy!), and Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Gwenda Bond] The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. It’s the first book I remember memorizing the words to because it was read to me so many times. I related to Peter. (Phillips would also relate to Peter, I think.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Gwenda Bond] I’m a hardcore reader, but I also watch quite a bit of television. Mostly my downtime is spent hanging with my husband and/or our friends and family. We can often be found walking our two incorrigible dogs, Puck and Emma, around the neighborhood or pacifying our cat, Hemingway, a polydactyl with many demands. Oh, and tweeting, if I’m being honest. I’m really lucky to have friends all over and so twitter has become a great way to stay in touch (alongside email, facebook, etc.).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Gwenda Bond] The easiest ways are probably via my website (http://www.gwendabond.com), by using the Ask function at Tumblr (http:// gwendabond.tumblr.com), or by @ing me on Twitter (@gwenda). I’d love to hear from them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order Blackwood from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.