Risingshadow has the honour of featuring a guest post by Isobel Starling.
About the author:
Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland. She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write fantasy and found she loved writing more than making art. Isobel writes fantasy, thrillers, and comedy and to date has written twenty books, has 12 audiobooks and translations in French, German, and Italian.
Isobel is currently working The Dark Harvest, book #2 in her "Quiet Work" fantasy series.
About Apple Boy:
A NEW LGBT FANTASY SERIES FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR ISOBEL STARLING
A lost lordling, a farm boy, and a tale of mystery, magic, and murder!
After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick. He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.
As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer. The only man who stands up for him is the farmer's beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.
Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm. The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it. He also cannot take his eyes off Adam, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!
Wordcount: 103,600 words, 556 pages
“Apple Boy” (The Quiet Work #1) is available as an ebook, paperback and audiobook, performed by award-winning narrator Gary Furlong.
Cover art by Lennel.
Guest post by Isobel Starling: How Robin Hobb's books changed my life
After a 20-year career as an artist, I found myself with a prolonged bout of artists block in 2014. Over the next three-months, I did nothing but read non-stop. One of the series I read was Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The book enthralled me and ended up changing my life. That sentence may sound a little over dramatic, but it’s the truth.
After completing the stunning Tawny Man Trilogy I was gutted to my bones with how the book ended. Unsatisfied and bereft, I took to Goodreads to find kindred readers who felt as I did. A fellow reader suggested I seek out fanfiction to give me closure. I couldn’t find a Fitz and the Fool story that worked for me, so I wrote my own. I had not written a story since I was 16 and at the time I began writing again I was 41, therefore, I was surprised at how easily the words flowed.
I wrote a 30,000 word ‘alternative ending’ story over a weekend and uploaded it to Archive of Our Own. The feedback was immediate and I was stunned by how many people enjoyed my story. I had no dreams about becoming a writer, but as soon as I set my mind on writing an original story I knew I was on the right path. This is where things get rather strange.
I began writing The Quiet Work series – a story of Elemental assassins, political intrigue, and LGBT romance. Again, the words flowed and within a month I’d written a whopping 120,000 of my first novel. (A word count I have not managed since!) I decided I needed some peace and perspective to complete the book, so I found a fisherman’s cottage in Cornwall for rent that had no internet, and no phone that I could use as a writers retreat. It wasn’t until the booking was confirmed that I discovered that the cottage was owned by Jane Johnson – author, editor of G.R.R Martin and Robin Hobb, and Publishing Director at Harper Voyager. It was such a bizarre coincidence that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it.
To say I was terrified to be travelling to Cornwall with my unfinished manuscript and meeting someone I held in such high regard - who had edited and published many of my Fantasy heroes - from Tolkien, to Martin, Hobb, and Lawrence, is an understatement, but I was determined to get a bit of peace and perspective to complete my debut fantasy book and meeting Jane was to be a bonus.
My confidence was at rock-bottom when I set off on my journey. I still had no idea IF I could write, or if my book was anything but a pipe dream. I found that the fisherman’s cottage was snug and homely, and Jane was very welcoming, approachable, and kind to me. She was generous with her time and spoke with me about books and writing. She suggested that when I completed my fantasy novel, I was to let it rest and then send it to her. Hearing that was like a dream. Jane didn’t know me from Adam, but her encouragement gave me confidence and spurred me on to keep writing.
I know many Fantasy authors would have sold their first-born to take up such an offer to have the eyes of the publishing director of Harper Voyager on their manuscript, but in the end, after my book had rested for four years, I didn’t send it to Jane or Harper Voyager.
My decision to not send my manuscript to Harper Voyager was based on several things. Firstly, I was terrified to have my first fantasy novel read by a person who has worked with so many fantasy greats and have it rejected.
Secondly, I’d decided to write full-time and I set up my own publisher, Decent Fellows Press. I wrote Thrillers, Comedy, and M/M Romance with enough success to earn a decent monthly income. In nearly 6 years I’ve published 19 books, 12 audiobooks, and have translations in French, German, and Italian. Writing in other genre’s increased my confidence and I learned the lay of the publishing landscape. I also learned something about myself —that I’m a control freak and enjoyed having complete control over my work – from the words on the page to the book cover art and advertising.
Thirdly, if I was to send my book to a mainstream publishing house I would not only lose control of my product, but the turnaround would be far slower than I required. It would be at least two-years before the first book hit the shelves. I wasn’t prepared to wait that long, so I published Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) through my own publisher, Decent Fellows Press in February this year, and book #2 The Dark Harvest, will follow by the end of 2019.
Apple Boy debuted at #4 in the LGBT fantasy chart on Amazon, which, in such a crowded genre is impressive for a book that bypassed traditional Fantasy publishing houses. It proved to me that authors don’t have to travel the usual, well- trodden paths to publication and that success can be found on your own terms.
I really do believe I wouldn’t have found writing without Robin Hobb’s books, and just before the publication of Apple Boy I received a surprise in the mail—a handwritten note from Robin Hobb wishing me well.
So, go-on and pick up a book. You never do know how it can change your life.
© Isobel Starling 2019