Ketchikan author discusses new fantasy novel
KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — Ketchikan author Patrice Motschenbacher-Hammer has recently released her new fantasy novel, “The Weavings of Akaria,” the first in her planned series: “The Veils of Wisdom.”
Motschenbacher-Hammer sat down at a local coffee shop Wednesday with her husband, Bob Hammer, to talk about the journey of publishing her first novel.
“It just evolved,” she said, of completing the novel. “I like fantasy, so I wanted to write something about a fantasy type. I found that creating different worlds is wonderful.”
Creating a fantasy story has its unique challenges, Motschenbacher-Hammer said.
“It’s time consuming, you know, when you have to build a city,” she explained, laughing.
Printed on the first pages of her 445-page paperback version book, is a hand-drawn map featuring not just a city, but the entire island country in which her story is set.
Among the many locations featured in the landscape are the “Five-Fingered Falls,” the “Healing Pools of White Rock,” as well as the “Veils of Wisdom” from the series’ title.
Motschenbacher-Hammer outlined the book’s plot.
“You have Ravenwolf. He’s the typical bad guy — he’s very charismatic, very intelligent, and he invents a crystal technology which transforms everyday life in Atlantis,” she said, adding that Atlantis is the location where the book opens, and where the reader is introduced to Ravenwolf.
“He transforms the power that everyone uses — transportation, communication, everything — so people are enamoured of him and they elect him First Minister.”
The people eventually realize that his hidden agenda is actually quite dark. He invents a crystal that collects sunlight to power the city, but they realize he wants to use it for destructive purposes.
Ravenwolf begins confiscating books and artifacts, and he implements a curfew, increasing the pressure on the citizens.
During a big fight over the sunlight-absorbing crystal, Atlantis is blown up, and two characters survive by being transported to Akaria, where Ravenwolf has been captured and entombed in obsidian stone with seven complex seals that are guarded by Akaria’s resident “Keepers.”
Motschenbacher-Hammer said that writing the book took about 10 years, as she was writing in her bits of spare time here and there. She said she has compiled copious notes over that time, which helped her to organize the myriad characters in the book.
“I’ve got notes describing them all,” she said, adding that she also used her notes to track the characters’ locations, as well.
She said when she created characters she was careful not to model them after actual people.
The final push to find a way to publish the book came from her husband.
“Bob read it and said, ’Hey, you know, let’s do something with it,” Motschenbacher-Hammer said.
The couple laughed when Hammer recalled a moment during his reading of the novel as it evolved over a few years. One day, when he picked it up to continue reading, his wife had changed the names of all of the characters.
“That’s it, I’m done!” he said he had proclaimed. The couple laughed. When about two years went by, however, he couldn’t resist and he continued to read.
Hammer said that he, like his wife, reads quite a bit of fantasy fiction as well as other genres.
They said that a couple of authors who inspired Motschenbacher-Hammer’s writing are Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
Motschenbacher-Hammer said she first was inspired to write her own fantasy novel when she saw the 1984 movie “Romancing the Stone.” In that movie, the main character was writing a book, and when she saw that, Motschenbacher-Hammer said she remembers thinking, “You know what? That’d be kind of fun.”
She not only was inspired to write the hefty “Weavings of Akaria” novel, but she said she is halfway through the second book in the series.
“I’m having a lot of time restraints, right now, so it’s hard to get in and write,” she said.
Her favorite writing schedule is to start first thing in the morning, but when life doesn’t cooperate with that, she said she just writes whenever she can get a chance.
She said that one of her best idea-generating activities is simply to take walks.
Motschenbacher-Hammer said that she used a mixed approach to planning her book’s plot and characters.
“I created as I went, until I got stuck. Then, I made an outline, and then I’d go back and fill it out until I got stuck again, and then I’d make an outline,” she said. “So, mostly, it was just having it evolve.”
Sometimes, she said, characters took on a life of their own, and surprised her.
“Right now, in the second book, this person happened and I hadn’t planned on it happening at that time, so it’s like, well, that works!” she said, laughing.
Hammer reminded her of the deep roots of her love of storytelling.
“When I was five,” Motschenbacher-Hammer said, “my family and I would go over to my grandparent’s house every Sunday night for years, and watch Walt Disney. Then, us kids would go to bed, and my grandpa would come in and say, ‘What kind of story do you want?’”
Then, her grandpa would make up a bedtime story based on their request.
Motschenbacher-Hammer’s father also was a story-teller.
“When we went camping in the summer, my dad would tell us stories on the way up to camp, and on the way back, he would make up stories to fill up time. He’d take ideas off of road signs,” she said.
“It gave me a soft spot for stories,” she added.
When it came time to publish her manuscript, Motschenbacher-Hammer turned to self-publishing program CreateSpace — which is now Kindle Direct Publishing — both owned by Amazon. She said that process took about nine months of focused effort.
The most challenging part of the publishing process, Motschenbacher-Hammer said, was creating and choosing cover art.
The final cover art is a photograph of Deer Mountain that was taken from the family’s back deck, she said.
The book is full of descriptions of the mountains and trees of Akaria. Some of the most vivid parts of the novel are Motschenbacher-Hammer’s descriptions of the plants and landscape of that world.
One location in particular is painted in loving, lush detail — a spacious martial arts sanctuary in the middle of a sprawling garden. Building a real-life sanctuary like the one in the book, was a dream of hers, Motschenbacher-Hammer said.
Her love of the outdoors began with her childhood growing up in Roseburg, Oregon, and her love of martial arts also started there.
Motschenbacher-Hammer, according to her biography in the book, is a Master fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and a first Kyu Shorin-Ryu/Shotokan Japanese karate. She, as well as Hammer, also are retired elementary school teachers.
Motschenbacher-Hammer said that she cherishes, most of all, the many years she was a stay-at-home mother to her sons, Josh and Chad Hammer.
Her sons were very helpful with both technical challenges as well as simple encouragement during the years she worked on the books, she said.
Both the paperback and Kindle versions of “The Weavings of Akaria” can be found on Amazon.com by searching Motschenbacher-Hammer’s name, or the book’s name.
The most enjoyable part of the entire process of finishing the novel was simply “the writing,” Motschenbacher-Hammer said.
When she was asked what she’d like readers to get from her book, Motschenbacher-Hammer said, “just enjoyment, and just that there’s beauty around, and something that you can get lost in out of the stress of the world,” adding that she’d also like readers to feel that “there is always hope.”
Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com