Interview with Ms. Walker, author of “Children of Swan:”
- Where did you grow up? Did your childhood have any impact on your writing?- I grew up in a different world from the one I am living in now. I was born and raised in China. It was a rigid society then, where individuality was forbidden, and everyone was expected to be the same: loyal, obedient and dedicated to whatever they were asked to do. Being able to experience both worlds has been a privilege for me as an author, enabling me to see things I’d otherwise be blind to, and feel things I’d otherwise miss.
- Tell us about the first story you ever wrote, published or not?- The first story that I ever finished, that had more than one draft, and that I was sufficiently proud of to share, was a screenplay. It was based on a Japanese short story about a geisha and a policeman. I wrote it when I was a freshman studying Physics and sent it to a famous Chinese film director. He wrote back. “Thank you. Don’t give up. I’d love to see more of your screenplays.” That was all he wrote in that letter. I didn’t get the screenplay back and so lost it forever. But the words I received from the director had fueled the lamp.
- What are you currently working on, writing wise?- I am current writing “Path to Love”, the second Children of Swan book. I am also reading widely in preparation for a historical romantic fiction, and plan to have a first draft done as soon as I get a chance.
- What is your favorite character you have ever created and why?- Jack Goodman in Children of Swan. As the main character, he dominates most of the story. As his creator, I am emotionally attached to him and feel for him. He isn’t a perfect character: a pushy teen butting his way through life when everything is simple and trouble-free, but who is overwhelmed and lost when the life he is used to is turned upside-down. He must learn to love and care through adversity.
- Do you have to write in order or do your ideas just come to you and you put them in order later?- It is a kind of mixture of everything. I tend to write following a flow, but jump over whenever I get to a blockage. So a finished first draft is more of a honeycomb. In every draft after that I fill in some holes. When all the holes are filled and the story is smooth, I review the whole book with glue and scissors, and cut and rearrange the scenes and formalize the chapters.
- What was your path like until you found writing?- It was when I changed my job from full time to part time that I finally started writing in earnest. It wasn’t that I suddenly found writing, but that I come to terms with who I am and decided to be that person. All those years, I’ve never forgotten my ambition to write. Deep in my mind the plan was always that I’d make my parents happy, and then I would take a different path. But there is always another person I must please … I started off under an obligation to please my parents, specially my mother, who had an erroneous idea that her children must work in a scientific area. My father, a strong-minded man, supported her. But really I had no idea what I should be doing, so I studied Physics – thinking it was the basis of everything and I could switch to another subject if I found one later hat suited me better. As I transitioned from physics, to control engineering, to computer science, I hopped in and out of universities and obtained various degrees from BSc to PhD. I am still a computer scientist and a university lecturer and researcher.
- How is your relationship with your publishing company?- I used CreateSpace and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). They are huge, self-service publishing machines: fast, no-nonsense and relentlessly efficient.
- Tell us about your covers.- I am an artist too, and enjoy in drawing and paintings. I designed the covers.
- What inspires you to write?- It could be anything. For the ‘Children of Swan’ book, it was my children. It isn’t a coincidence that I have three children, just like the Goodman family. A few years ago I was attending a novel-writing workshop and needed a story idea to pitch to the group. My mind was dominated at the time by the daily chaos wrought by my children. Loving them dearly, but disliking their constant sibling squabbles, I imagined they were missing and caring for each other, with their lives turned upside-down by adversity. That was how the story started. Since then it has grown a life of its own — the missing parents, the abducted young brother, and the perilous land of Taron where life is held cheap. Nevertheless, it is a fiction. Once the writing switch is turned on, I am completely given over to storytelling. Would I want my children go through the suffering and life-and-death struggles of the Goodman children to learn the same valuable lessons? Well…no, but life can be capricious. The days that our children are sheltered under our wing are numbered. One day they will spread their own wings and fly off into the sky. By then I hope that, like the Goodman children in their fictional world, they will care for each other and be strong and resilient.
- How do you get book reviews?– I am still exploring the channels. Goodreads, Self-Publishing Review, Reading Deals are a few of the places that I have made use of so far. I also find potential reviewers from online searches and write to them in person.
- What is harder: writing, editing, or marketing?- I am a newcomer to marketing and learning my way to be better. Marketing is currently the hardest thing among the three but this may very well change as I gain more experience.
- If you could publish every book idea you’ve ever had, how many books would you have out right now?- Hundreds, I guess.
- Have you ever considered co-writing a book or series with another author?- Why not, if we can work together and complement each other.
- What do you do to relax?- Reading, jogging, scooting, watching TV, having a hot bath.
- If you could tell your 14-year-old self one thing, what would it be?- “Don’t ever despair. You’ll marry a wonderful man called David, have three beautiful children, and become an author.”
- What advice would you have for this upcoming generation?- Get a container for your phone which is both a phone charger and a sound-proof box (invent one if it doesn’t exist yet). Lock your phone in it and spend at least one undistracted hour every day with your family.
- Have you ever read a book that changed your outlook on life?- I broke my leg when I was 11 and was confined to an iron bed in a hospital for more than 40 days. My father brought me ‘Treasure Island’ in Chinese. It was the first western novel I’d ever read. From that day on, I devoured every piece of Western and Russian literature that I came across.
- Do you have a classic piece of literature or a classic author you are fond of? How about one that is overrated?- There are many that I love. Balzac, Shakespeare, and Dickens have long been my all-time favorites. For the past couple of years, I have been an avid reader of D.H Lawrence. I don’t think any classical piece of literature that I have read is overrated. Time has done its job of checking and filtering before passing these books on to me to read.
- Any type of music that gets your writing juices flowing?- I listen to James Morrison, OneRepublic, Years & Years, and Adam Lambert.
- If you could pick three people who are your heroes or role models, who would they be and why?- Alexander the Great has been my hero for a while, and the words of Arrian of Nicomedia eloquently give the reasons: “He had an uncanny instinct for the right course in a difficult and complex situation, and was most happy in his deductions from observed facts … Nobel indeed was his power of inspiring his men, of filling them with confidence, and, in the moment of danger, of sweeping away their fear by the spectacle of his own fearlessness. When risks had to be taken, he took them with the utmost boldness … Spending but little on his own pleasures, he poured out his money without stint for the benefit of his friends.” I could oblige if I had to name three, but two of them would be subject to change, depending on who happened to drift into my mind at the time. The one and only name that I would always choose without a thought is Alexander the Great.
- Dog or cat person?- I have had a few cats in the past, but never a dog.
- What do you want to eat right now?- Nothing. I just had a cup of coffee and a piece of lime mousse cake.
- If you could be in any movie that has already been made, which one would it be?- Lord of the Rings
- What is your favorite holiday or time of year?- A sunny island surrounded by a warm sea.
- Anything else you would like to add?- Thank you very much.
Thank YOU, Mrs. Walker, for your interview! 🙂
How did Science-Fiction Influence “Children of Swan” and your life?:
By: Coral Walker
Like the Goodman family, I have three children. I love them dearly but dislike their constant sibling squabbles. So I imagined their lives turned upside-down by discovering their parents missing, and facing difficulties through which they learn to love and care for each other — that was how “Children of Swan” came about.When I came to decide on the setting of the story, I relied on scientific fiction devices — space travel, aliens, a space island, wormholes, blue and red-skinned alien species and so on — to give the protagonists a means to travel from one location in space to another, and to define the traits of the land of Taron on planet Cygnore, where the main story takes place. I also used an energy shortage on Earth and bio-engineering in the story to provide either the motivation/back story or a fundamental factor that directly influences the plot.
I have studied science and still hold an academic position, working both as a lecturer and researcher in computer science. My scientific background has helped me to avoid relying too much on purely fantasy devices with no substantiation, but instead to use plausible scientific elements whenever there is a need.
I was born and raised in communist China, and a good portion of my schooling was learning about communism. “We want to achieve a new and better order of society: in this new and better society there must be neither rich nor poor; all will have to work. Not a handful of rich people, but all the working people must enjoy the fruits of their common labor. ….” in Vladimir Lenin’s beguiling words. The teaching was effective. My school friends and I truly believed, and would, without a hint of doubt, recite: “Like the rising and setting of the sun, like the continuing flow of a river, the new and better order of society would come and will come.”
I was often impatient for this better order of society to arrive, and asked my mother “When will it come? How many years?”. How innocent and deluded I was; little did I know that the fascinating presentation of this perfect society was nothing but a dream, like a utopian world in a scientific fiction novel that would soon turn into a dystopian nightmare.
Propaganda in classrooms — that was how science fiction took root in my young mind. It certainly affects how I see scientific fiction now. For me, it relates to the very core of human existence. It concerns hope and fear, not just of the individual but of society and the world as a whole. It is an efficient vehicle that allows us to observe the successes and failures of idealism and technology in a fictional format, without having to face a real world of potentially catastrophic outcomes.
Excerpt from “Children of Swan:”
A shrill whistle came from above, and a wave of noise — a mixture of screaming and shouting — swept across the arena.
As quick as a wink, a large red shadow shot out from the hole behind the tall boy, tossed him into the air and caught him as he fell.
Rapidly it coiled around his long-limbed body, squeezing the life out of him, as he kicked helplessly.
It was a red bokwa of enormous size.
Jack was screaming. It was soundless, painful and primeval. He wanted to run, shout and scream. Anything, if only he could get out of the place.
A cold hand caught him by his arm. “Still. You must keep still.” Teilo’s voice sounded too calm to be real.
Seemingly disturbed by the fearful sight of the giant bokwa, the small brown ones, which had until now dominated the arena, slithered meekly towards the edges and vanished into the small holes in the wall. Soon only a handful of them were left, wiggling silently along the wall.
The whole arena became eerily deserted.
The gruesome body of the young boy was now lying alone. Already small in size, it was now curled tightly up, like a baby in a mother’s womb. A stone’s throw away, the large red bokwa thumped the tall boy onto the ground. The feeble gurgling sound from his throat and the spontaneous twitching of his hands were the only signs he was still alive.
Slowly, the giant bokwa opened its large blood-dripping mouth and started reaching towards the boy’s head.
Next to him, Teilo stood still like a statue. Still? Was that how he had survived? Keeping still in the middle of the bloody carnage?
Without knowing what he was doing, Jack lurched into a frenzied run, stomping his feet and stirring up a thick layer of dust. A few steps away from the stricken boy he halted.
“Hmmm, Hmmm …” Straining his throat to utter a sound, he stomped his feet more.
The bokwa’s head froze in mid-air. Its scaly body gleamed splendidly, and its cold, orange eyes gawked at him, sizing him up.
“Hi, here!” Teilo shouted, having somehow taken up a position opposite Jack.
Perhaps because Teilo was nearer, or the fact that he was half a head shorter than Jack, the bokwa only faltered for a second before weaving its giant body towards Teilo, disregarding the incoherent sounds from Jack’s strained throat.
“Zizi …” A threatening hiss escaped from Teilo’s compressed lips, and he adopted an attacking pose.
Flashing in the corner of his eye, Jack caught sight of something shining among the audience. Above the lofty wall, a small boy, the one who had chanted “Teilo” in the washing hall, was bending over the low barrier with a dagger in his hand. As he waved it, the sharp edge of the dagger glimmered brightly.
The dagger, if only he could get that dagger!
About the Book:
Title: Children of Swan- The Land of Taron
Author: Coral Walker
Genre: YA fantasy/sci-fi
It seems that nothing could be worse than waking up one morning to find their parents have disappeared and their young brother Bo bawling his eyes out, but for Jack and Brianna, the squabbling teenage sibling rivals, the worst is yet to come.
Much to the bafflement and distress of their children, Marcus and Zelda have actually returned to their home planet, Cygnore. Marcus and Zelda, the runaway prince and princess of Bara and Rion, had a life on Earth. For twelve years, they lived happily and peacefully under the name of ‘Goodman’.
Bo is kidnapped. In hot-headed pursuit, Jack and Brianna plunge into a wormhole that takes them to Taron. Little did they know their impetuous arrival in Taron has placed the lives of their parents in peril. Locals catch them and bring them to an arena. In bewilderment and dismay, Jack finds himself fettered to a wall and examined by a smouldering-eyed and blue-skinned young woman of Bara, Lady Cici.
Lady Cici, the daughter of Lord Shusha, has come to the arena for one and only reason — to have them killed. She is to be engaged to Prince Marcus, their father, and she cannot afford their existence to jeopardize Marcus’ life and her forthcoming engagement. She must have them killed, and the arena, where slaves routinely fight to the death, is the perfect place.
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Coral Walker was born and raised in China. She holds a BSc in Computer Engineering, MSc in computing and PhD in Computer Science and, and has spent most of her adult life striving for an orthodox, academic career path. She now lives in Wales, UK with her husband and three children. Becoming a mother, and teaching her children to live a fulfilled life resuscitated her fading dream of being an author. The urge to write became so great that she pursued her dream and the ‘Children of Swan’ trilogy is the upshot — a symbol of a new journey in life.
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