Gwen Perkins mixes fantasy with romance and reality

Thanks to author Gwen Perkins for being with us today. First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc. Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times?

Thank you so much for the interview, Lyndi. I’m honored to be featured on your website!

To tell you a little bit about myself, I live in Tacoma, Washington with my partner and our three children. So far as writing addictions go, my sole vice is coffee as one might expect from a Northwesterner. The coffeepot rarely shuts off at the Perkins house! I’m also fond of music while I write and frequently switch musical genres, depending on the scene that I’m writing.

I work in a local museum which is wonderful for ideas—I spend a lot of time listening to people tell stories and unearthing lost tales myself to share them with others. (What a day job for a writer!)

What’s your education, if it’s relevant to your writing, and how does that education help you/or do you find that you can write well even without the diploma others might think they must have?

My educational background is in military history. I hadn’t intended my education to complement my writing, however, I’ve found that it definitely enriches it. This has been particularly true as I work on my second novel which focuses on more martial characters than the first.

Tell us about your most recent publication!

My most recent publication is The Universal Mirror which came out in February of this year. Mirror is a fantasy novel with more than a bit of romance at its heart.

The Universal Mirror is about two friends, Quentin and Asahel, who decide to defy the laws of their country so that they can practice magic on the human body. This quest starts with Quentin and his wife, Catharine. Catharine was stricken with plague as a child and horribly disfigured,to the point where she refuses to believe that anyone can love her. Quentin, who is in love with his wife, wants to heal her because he believes that if he can make her physically beautiful, she will finally accept his feelings for her. This motivation leads to a number of different realizations—and problems—throughout the course of the novel. (I won’t say too much here to avoid spoiling you!)

What inspired you to write this story? What interesting thing did you learn or research to write it that you didn’t know before?

There are a few different things that inspired this story, some based in research, others in personal experience. One of the strongest influences on it has been raising teenage girls (and a younger son). After hearing my middle daughter complain that there were no positive overweight characters in fiction, I realized how much physical beauty plays apart in fantasy novels. I wanted to present characters who were lovable and believable even if they weren’t physically attractive.

I also wanted to create a story in which someone’s negative self-perception didn’t, in fact, mirror the perception of others around them. (This was something that I myself struggled with in my youth.) Quentin genuinely does love Catharine and would if she had no face at all—however,she’s so conditioned to think that attractive men only love a pretty face that she can’t believe it. And, you know,based on the comments made by both my daughters after reading it, I think that my point was made.

So far as other research goes, I spent a lot of time reading about medieval medicine and looking at the small details of medieval life. I wanted the world of Cercia to be real and yet relatable. Grounding it in our own history made that work for me and also enabled me to come up with tiny details to enhance the reader’s immersion in my story.

How would you best describe your books?

They’re fantasy novels with strong romantic overtones and a dash of adventure. I love books that don’t stick to the formula of their genre and I’ve tried to do that with mine. You won’t find all of the traditional fantasy elements in my novels but you will see love and relationships tested, swordfights, and a bit of humor sprinkled throughout.

I also try to keep them at a shorter length like the fantasy novels I was fond of when I was younger. While I love longer epics, there is something to be said for having a short novel that you can relax with for a few hours. Not all of us always have time to spend months on a book!

What is your favorite genre to write? To read?

My favorite genres to write are fantasy, horror, and science fiction (in that order) though I love a strong romantic subplot. As far as reading goes, I’ll read anything if it’s got compelling characters and a good plot. I’m a very character-driven reader and writer and that’s often what pulls me into a series.

What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?

The stories that I’m writing now, to be honest. I love the world and characters that I’ve created. There is so much story that I’ve yet to tell.

What do you love most about writing and what do you not like?

I love being able just to lose myself in my own imagination for awhile, writing about people and places that don’t exist in our world. I also love seeing the effect that my writing has on people and engaging in conversations with readers.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Are there any writing websites you find particularly useful?

There is a writing group on Facebook for fantasy writers that I’m very fond of. I’ve gotten so much feedback and inspiration from the folks on there! I also have a number of close friends who write and while there isn’t a structured group that I work with, per se, I’ve learned a lot from those individuals.

As far as writing websites that I find useful, I often enjoy reading Ralan’s, io9,and blogs by individual writers/reviewers (John Scalzi and Andrew Liptak, for instance).

Is there any special music you like to listen to while writing? How does it inspire you?

It depends on the scene that I’m writing and sometimes, on thecharacters. I find myself varying the music depending on the emotions involved. If I’m going to write a romance scene, I’m more likely to play soft music or a song with heartfelt lyrics that sums up the relationship. For fight scenes, I like heavy drums (Bear McCreary (of Battlestar Galactica fame) compositions are a big inspiration of mine in that regard).

Tell us a little about your path to publication. How many books have you published? How many books did you write before selling one?

The Universal Mirror is both the first book that I’ve written and the first book that I’ve published. I’v ewritten for a number of encyclopedias and academic publications, as well as published the occasional short story, but Mirror was something of an adventure.

How did you find a publisher? How did you receive the Call?

I looked at a number of different publishers. Ultimately, I decided to submit to small presses and focus on those as I wanted a little more freedom in writing my books than I thought that a larger press would allow.

Hydra won out because I felt really confident after exchanging emails with the publisher that they would respect my wishes and be a true partner in the publication of my novel. I’m very glad to report that I was right. I’ve been consulted on every aspect of the book and my wishes and ideas are always respected. While I could be wrong, I don’t feel that a first-time author often has that experience with some of the bigger presses. Also, the group of authors at Hydra is one ofthe warmest, most supportive teams that I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve learned and am still learning so much from them.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today? Any special memories you have in the creation of it?

My favorite thing about my book is the characters. They evoke strong emotions in me even now. I’ll freely admit that there were times when I disliked my main characters even while I loved them but I think that’s a sign that they became very real to me.

One of the most special memories I have of the creation of the book is when I saw the cover art for the first time. Enggar [Adirasa] really captured a moment of Mirror perfectly in his painting. It was awe-inspiring to see that an artist would take the story that I’d written and create something so beautiful from it in return.

What are you writing now? What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you?

I’m currently writing the last part of the sequel to The Universal Mirror. This book, entitled The Jealousy Glass, takes place a year later and follows two of the characters to a new land. I’m working on lining up some appearances at conventions over the summer—the best place to find out where I’ll be appearing is to follow me on your social media outlet ofchoice. They’re all listed at the book’s website,

What would you like to tell readers?

I love to make connections so please don’t be shy about looking me up! I can be reached pretty easily and I do love to “friend” people, so don’t hesitate to drop me a request. If you read the book, feel free to shoot me an email about it. I may take a little bit of time to respond as I work full-time and have a family but I’ll definitely make every effort!

Thanks for being with us today, Gwen, and best wishes!