Hello Claire! I am so happy to have you on Pens & Arrows! For those who don’t know, Claire Banschbach is the fantasy author of The Rise of Aredor duology, The Faeries of Myrnius trilogy, the Oath of the Outcast duology, Then Comes a Drifter, and her most recent release Greywolf’s Heart. All of which have won a spot on my list of favorites. One thing is for sure, Claire is the queen of complex and fulfilling character arcs! I will be taking full advantage of this interview and probably drown you in all my questions, but first, can you tell us about yourself and when you decided to become an author?
Claire: Bring on the questions! I am a west Texas girl, and have some desert still in my blood. I work as a pediatric physical therapist during the day and get to explore different worlds in my off time. I’m a hybrid indie and small press author of 9 books and counting, and love stories of brotherhood and family, action and adventure, good conquering evil, and maybe sometimes a smidge of romance. I never really dreamed of being an author, but I sat down at 17 years old to tell the story that had been simmering in my head for years. Subbed it on a whim to a press, saw it in print, and then had the realization that I had so many more stories inside me and began this journey of being an author!
A few personnel and fun questions:
How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?
Claire: Taking a break! Lol! I have some whiskey called “writer’s tears” that I’ll take a little sip of every time I finish a first draft. Then let it sit, let my mind and the story breathe while I brainstorm what’s next and get ready to dive in!
Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what type?
Claire: Always! I will fluctuate between soundtrack scores or some of my favorite playlists that have a variety of indie, celtic, rock, and Christian music on them. A few books even have their own specially curated playlists!
What books have changed your life?
Claire: That’s a tough question! One that springs to mind quickly is the Riyria Chronicles - mostly because they showed me that I could write a clean adult style fantasy and put myself out there without feeling like I had to edit or whittle down bits of characters that might not fit into the young adult sphere. Reading those really changed the trajectory of my writing just because they gave me the confidence to write what I wanted to.
Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?
Claire: Yeah, it was hard at first to admit that I was a writer and then an author, and even harder to talk about it to people since it was a thing that I just didn’t talk about outside my own family. But it’s become such a part of me now, that I can more confidently look at myself as a storyteller and lover of words and worlds.
Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know?
Claire: I hate being surprised. Like surprise parties for me are probably one of the worst things you could do to me. Hate being pranked. I don’t usually find it funny at all. I don't know why, but that’s something about me!
A couple questions about writing:
What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
Claire: I think mostly it means that the story is not working the way it needs to. Usually when I get stuck on a book, it’s because I’m forcing a plot line or arc, or even just a scene and if I go back a chapter or even a few lines, I’ll find that spot that got me stuck. So, I’ve started seeing it less as a “block” and more as an indication that I need to take a closer look at something in the story instead and maybe make some changes.
How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
Claire: I’ll read the negative reviews, and sometimes it’ll sting a little when someone doesn’t like the world or the characters as much as I hoped they would. But then I’ll remind myself that my books are not for every person out there and my sense of identity is not tied up in my books, and then move on. Sounds easy, but some days are much much harder than others.
What is the most difficult part of the writing process?
Claire: Currently it’s just getting time to write! I’m in the midst of a very busy time at work, so coming home mentally exhausted does not lend itself well to creating. But other than that, I think getting through the middle bits of the book in the first draft can sometimes slow me down.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
Claire: Characters usually. My first introduction to a new story is through a scene that’ll pop into my head. Usually its characters doing something, some bit of action, or their reaction to something. And then I’ll try and finish out the scene, then backtrack and see what came before. My characters will usually give up details about themself first before the main plot points come into place. I don’t outline stories either, so some plot is generally discovered along the way.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
Claire: Don’t be afraid to write the story on your heart.
Let’s hear more about your books:
Out of all the books you have written, which is your favorite?
Claire: Don’t make me choose one of my book children! Lol! They’re all special to me for different reasons, but I will say Blood of the Seer ends with one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever written to date.
Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why?
Claire: I relate most to Rhys MacDuffy/the Baron from the Dragon Keep Books, and then I find myself having some similarities to Laramie and Gered from Then Comes A Drifter.
What is a significant way, that Greywolf’s Heart or Then Comes a Drifter, has changed since the first draft?
Claire: Greywolf needed some significant editing overhauls, so some plotlines got cut and more chapters added, so it feels like a lot changed. Drifter didn’t really need too much changing plot wise. It was more deepening characters and tweaking some arcs!
Many of the protagonists of your stories are male. What’s the trickiest thing about writing characters of the opposite gender?
Claire: Honestly, I feel like male characters are the easy ones to write! Sometimes I struggle with writing female characters. I think once you know a bit about their character and personality, working in thoughts and reactions is fairly easy.
Could you tell us about your upcoming books or is that private author-only information?
Claire: I’m working on a sort of Bad Batch/Mandolorian/Witcher style story about a young soldier who discovers a nine-year-old princess in a forest tower. He takes her home and is caught up in stories of shapeshifters and stolen faces where no one can be trusted (and all he wants to do is take a nap ;) )
Wow, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this! Thank you so much Claire for answering all of my questions, haha. Your responses were wonderful, insightful, and had me chuckling more than a few times. Again, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this. And to all those reading this, GO READ CLAIRE’S BOOKS! She has written middle-grade adventures, YA stories, and NA epics (those are my favorite) so take your pick!