Interview with Constanza Mayer
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MEET AUTHOR CONSTANZA MAYER
Chilean author Constanza Mayer was born in Santiago. She spent most of her childhood living in different cities across Chile until she finally settled down for many years in a small town in the state of Illinois. There, she began her true journey into the realm of fantasy and all things magical—Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, fed her imaginative mind. This is when she began to write her first fantasy novel, but it was sadly lost due to a computer virus. After many years passed, having moved back to Santiago, Chile, she was finally able to write again. This is where “The Battle of the Erathiel” truly began to develop. After almost two years of hard work, and living for a time in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, she finishes the first novel of her series in Santiago on October 29th, 2016. Constanza is an avid reader, a lover of the arts, and a devoted piano player and composer. Among her dreams, she hopes to continue traveling across the world to fill herself with more experiences to write from, as she typically says:
“Hay que vivir para poder escribir.”
“You must live so that you may write.”
“The Battle of the Erathiel: Across the Enchanted Sea”
The ancient elven race of the Erathiel embark on a journey across the Enchanted Sea to find a new home. With them travel the only remaining dwarves and humans from their land. The reason they had to leave was because a terrible wizard, Bragolthar, has destroyed their land and they have no way of defeating him. He actually allows them to leave, for reasons that will later be explained in the series. While at sea, they are struck by a terrible storm that destroys one of the ships, strands another, and only one makes it to land. The lost ship was Captained by Princess Isilen, who is very loved loved by her people. It breaks the company’s heart to not know the whereabouts of the ship, but they have not lost hope that they will meet again. They reach a mysteriously abandoned port that only fills their minds with more questions as they see no civilization nearby, only an endless desert. Through their journey they make friends and enemies, discover there’s more to this land than they had imagined. Its people call it Dôr Annon and sadly there is one who looks to submit all its free people: the “Dark One”, Delufer, a wicked wizard.
How did you do research for your book? When I started writing this story, I didn’t really do much research. At first, I just got carried away with the images, the characters, and the world that was unfolding before my eyes that my focus was just on feeding the story, letting it grow. Later on, when I started editing what I’d written, I used the internet, mainly, to research about ships, types of weapons, surviving at sea, geography, just a bit of everything that I needed. I still do, especially now that I’m continuing with the second part of the story. I honestly don’t think you ever stop researching when you write.
Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest? I think, so far, the hardest character to write has been Isilen, considering her “geographical” situation. It was complicated at first to be able to show her to the readers in a setting where things did not change much and where she was completely alone. So, I guess more than the character itself, it was the situation she was in. Currently, I am super excited to be developing her story and helping her character find a way out of the sea. And the easiest? I guess I would have to say that it’s been this saga’s villain: Delufer. I adore writing the “bad guy’s” story and playing the character in my head as I write. Everything about him is so clear to me, from the way he looks to the sound of his voice, that he just pours out of me, and his malice and scheming almost happens automatically in my head or as I write. It’s a weird but very cool experience.
In your book you make a reference to…. how did you come up with this idea? I make a reference to many different topics like being an immigrant, moving to a new world where you’re not exactly wanted, which is an experience that my family and I personally lived when we moved to the US. Not everybody made us feel very welcome or like we belonged, it was tough (mainly for my brother and sister), and it still is for many people out there and especially if we consider all the refugees who are still trying to find their place in the world. What happened at Aleppo definitely marked me during my writing and how much hate was thrown at innocent people. But just as my book shows, there are kind people, there is kindness and understanding in the world, which is something I think our society should never ever stop practicing and, if anything, integrate even more into their daily lives.
I also would like to think that I focus on positive female roles, although I know ‘positive’ can be a very personal concept depending on the person, but I try to show men and women (elf males and females or dwarf males and females, etc) in more equal roles. For example, King Thinidiel and Queen Nimtar rule together and make decisions together; the queen does not just play a decorative role, but makes decisions and defends her people. Also, I have written my female characters to be driven about something other than love in their lives and some not even considering love as a priority, romantic love, to be specific. It’s not that I don’t find love important, it is a wonderful thing and a part of our lives and experience as living beings, but I think that a female character can be interesting, inspiring, and real without being just focused on the person of their dreams. I remember when I saw Pocahontas as a child, I swore she was going to choose John Smith over her people, which is what typically happened in all the other movies, but she chose her people and let him go. It marked and inspired me, understanding that you can love, but still stand strong with your beliefs without sacrificing them, which is sometimes something we don’t see that much in books and in the media. I truly hope my characters, both male and female, can inspire many generations and help someone not be afraid to be who they truly are or to fight for their dreams.
What made you write a book about…? Why fantasy? Why elves and dwarves and dragons and all that jazz? Because I’ve always been in love with myths, folklore, fantasy and science fiction. My head’s always been there and now my heart’s there as well. I loved stories of fairies and I used to ‘play with some’ as a child (according to my mother, when I went to a wood that was located next to our home in the south of Chile, I would tell her that I was going to play with the fairies in the wood or come back and tell her I already had). I’ve also always felt that there are things, beings, energies that we cannot fully perceive a whisper in the breeze, which leads me to be creating stories constantly. I sit and I listen, I hear a story from the wind that blows between the trees and I just let it all unfold.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories? I love magical stories and as I child I read many and saw lots of fantasy related films (thank you 80s for that fantasy plus synth music mix!) and when Harry Potter reached my hands there was no turning back. I adore Rowling’s magical world of wizards (I’m actually also working on a wizard world and story that I hope to later introduce to the world) and, thanks to my sister, I read The Hobbit, which I enjoyed, but when The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson’s AMAZING adaptation came out, I was hooked! Tolkien’s fantastic world came to life before my eyes and I read the trilogy in days. I would have to say that they are both the authors that helped me reconnect with the magic inside me and that motivate me to one day reach such mastery and creativity and, of course, to maybe get Peter Jackson interested in making a movie about my saga, too!
There are many books out there about….What makes yours different? I actually had to ask for help to answer this question and what I discovered from my readers is the development of the elves in my book. They mature physically according to their mental process. Sure, they start out as babies but once they mature so do their bodies and then they usually stay in an ‘adult state’ for most of their lives, only when it’s been thousand and thousands of years do they age very much so. Aside from those characteristics, because there are some things you will discover in the second book, my readers love that my female characters are very goal oriented or looking for their path in the world rather than focused ‘on a guy’ as most of the time and that their roles are not less than the males and that there’s respect among them. It’s a bit of an ideal concept, no sexism in their world. Also, I was told that I find a balance between the classic way of narrating with good description and ‘old fantasy’ feel while keeping things very modern and also making readers feel like ‘they’re reading a movie’. And finally, my readers pointed out that they loved the way the characters developed gradually and how it’s not easy to stereotype them all at once and are eager to discover how they change in the next book. I’m actually very happy with all this feedback.
What advice would you give budding writers? Just go for it. Write as much as you can, take moments to not look back, let it rest for a bit, then come back to your work. Also, don’t be afraid of letting others read your work, criticism can be a great ally if you listen well and try to learn from your mistakes. I think it’s also important to have your own voice. Sometimes people might tell you “that’s too much description” or “why are you using pretty much poetry in your writing?”
Your book is set in Dôr Annon. Have you ever been there? Only in my mind. It doesn’t exist here on Earth, as far as I know. Maybe it exists in another galaxy. Now, that would be amazing!
In your book you state a “foundation of corpses” is not what the Erathiel wish in the search for their new home, why is that? I think that it’s sad to look back and see how most of society was built on the annihilation of other cultures, oppression and submission, murder, rape, among so many other atrocities. I wish our past was different, I wish we had been wiser and more evolved as living being, but we were basic and that led to people fulfilling their ‘basic’ instincts, although it doesn’t feel like we’ve evolved FAR BEYOND that. So I want to create a new society that doesn’t look to oppress another culture because I don’t think it’s necessary and I want to send that message out there. There’s always another way.
If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be? I’m already in there and in more than one form, but I’m not telling anyone who I am. You’ll just need to guess!
Do you have another profession besides writing? Yes, I am a certified Grade and High School English teacher, I also teach piano, compose music and teach English online. Sometimes I work reading and criticizing other written works or translate documents. I also make and sell jewelry, mainly in the summer. I hope that once I finish my first album that I can work composing music for moves or TV series whenever possible.
How long have you been writing? Probably since I could write? I’ve seen pictures of me writing stories since I was about 5 years old and I know that since I was 6 I was already doing it, so it’s been a long journey. My first award I actually got when I was 8 years old. I had recently moved to Illinois and there was a writing contest, LeVar Burton’s “Reading Rainbow” Young Writers and Illustrators Contest. I didn’t speak or write English that well, but I actually wrote better than more than one classmate, which is probably one of the reasons I won. My story was called “Jack the Magnificent Dog” and I still have it.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it? Yes, I do, but never fully blocked. Sometimes I can’t continue a chapter or start one, but I can work on world building and ideas that could later take place in the story. When that happens, I just do whatever else I want to. I used to force it but after my first book I discovered that what works for me is to get my desires out of my system. If I want to watch a series for an entire week, I do that. If I need to party and socialize, I do it. There’s a reason why we yearn for things, so I just listen to my needs so later I can write with no restrains.
What is your next project? My other fantasy book project is called “The Draconis Chronicles” and it’s very much inspired in “The Worst Witch”, which I watched as a young girl and also on “Harry Potter”, but meant for a more teenage crowd and even adults. It’s a much darker world that surrounds our main character, it’s very real in many ways and I can’t wait to work on it after I’ve finished book two for “The Battle of the Erathiel”. I have more projects incubating, to be honest. Hope to have enough time to write them all.
What genre do you write and why? Right now, I’m focusing mainly on fantasy. My book series “The Battle of the Erathiel” is pure fantasy but with a bit of sci-fi background that you’ll one day know about if you follow it. And I guess I enjoy writing fantasy because I like disconnecting from the world we currently live in and perceive and just travel to another one in my mind, sometimes it even feels like I’m completely there and I hope my readers will as well. I also can write fiction in more “real” places, got some ideas there, too.
What is the last great book you’ve read? The last great book I read was “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. It was my second time reading it and I added it to our school program for the Sixth Grade class to improve their reading skills and boy did it just get me again. I adore Rowling’s work! Such imagination and a way of taking you to another place. I am currently reading “Cloud Atlas”, “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”, “Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture” and “Treasure Island” at the same time, so I’m not quite sure which one of those might just be ‘great’ but I’m enjoying all of them, they’re all wonderful in their own unique way. Writing a book sometimes doesn’t give me enough time to read someone else’s, finish someone else’s, so I want to work on that.