Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: C. E. Page writes emotionally rich, character driven tales of magic and adventure, primarily in the adult epic fantasy genre. Her stories feature demigods and other divinely assisted misfits who would prefer it if megalomaniac fools would stop trying to destroy the known realms in their search for power.
She lives on the east coast of Australia with her partner Evan, their two children, and one of the world’s quirkiest dogs. An avid reader and gamer, she loves devouring a good story in whatever form it takes.
Thanks so much, C.E., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
C.E. Page: I was always an imaginative child who spent hours reading or running around the bush acting out my own stories. That imaginative play gradually turned into writing those stories down. So I would say the drive to tell stories has always been there. When did I realise I was good at it? I don’t know. I’d like to think I am good at it, and I’ve had enough feedback to say that I am probably good at it in some regard but there’s always that little voice in the back of your mind you know?
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
CEP: I take a break and refill my creative well. It might take a day or a week, but I don’t force myself to write if I am stuck. I still show up to write on my designated writing days but if the words aren’t following then I just close the manuscript down and focus on something else. Sometimes that will mean writing something unrelated to the current story, though usually it looks like knocking over some non-author related/general adulting responsibilities and then reading or gaming for a bit.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
CEP: Scratch it down on the closest piece of paper then pop into my master document of ideas that come at inconvenient times. I let those ideas build up for a while. Some of them will be persistent and keep drip feeding me new parts of the story or characters and usually they are the ones that will become future projects. Others are just fleeting, like they stop in on their way to another author and I will never hear from them again. If an idea hasn’t resurfaced after that initial spark, then I will usually delete it from the doc because that means it wasn’t actually meant for me.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
CEP: Character always. Deathborn sprang to life with Nea, the first ever scene I wrote for that book is now the start of chapter five where Nea is investigating a dead body in a roadside ditch. A Song of Sorrow began as it does now with Deana traipsing through the jungle on her way to watch the brightfish moult.
JSC: What character gave you fits and fought against you in A Song of Sorrow? Did that character cause trouble because you weren’t listening and missed something important about them?
CEP: Deana was a struggle to write, especially in the beginning. She didn’t fight me as such but rather I had a lot of trouble getting into her skin and translating her onto the page. She’s a lot more reserved than your standard POV character but the more she finds her own voice, the easier she is becoming to write.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
CEP: I wouldn’t say I have a favourite. It’s usually whichever POV I am currently writing. There are characters who are easier to write than others though. Bran is fairly easy to write in that he usually shows up when it’s time for a chapter from his POV and he rarely fights where the story is taking us. I also enjoyed writing Agnes, she’s complex but easy-going for the most part and that makes her chapters smooth to write because her skin is easier to wear (sounds creepy but I am sure other writers understand). Anyway, like Bran, she always shows up ready to go even if the chapter we are about to wade into has some darker or harder moments.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
CEP: I am a discovery writer. I have no idea where the story is going until we get there. Once a character shows up and says “hey, this is my story and you need to tell it” I just follow along. It means that I spend a lot of time staring at the screen and swearing under my breath (or not so under my breath) and pulling my hair out, but it seems to work. I’ve tried planning my stories out but that is definitely not the process for me. My brain actually just turns to white noise when I try to plan, but if I sit and let my fingers hover over the keys then all of a sudden magic will happen and I will be dragged into the story. Then I just need to keep up. My process is painful and messy and emotionally raw and yes, we end up following some strange rabbit holes at times, but I definitely wouldn’t change it.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
CEP: Fantasy is my one true love. Always has been and always will be. However I read pretty much everything except horror. I am a massive scaredy cat and just can’t do horror. My guilty pleasure comfort genre is historical romance, but I also enjoy a good lighthearted contemporary romance when I need a pick me up as well. Regardless of genre though I definitely prefer stories that end on a happy note.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
CEP: Kill is easy, Leon (from Deathborn) without a second thought. He’s an absolute bastard. Fuck? Now that’s a hard one (no pun intended lol) I mean Declan would be a good choice but maybe Penny or Mateus or Malani or … cue bisexual panic … ahem there are a lot of options and I am not sure I could choose. Do I really have to pick just one? Marry is a bit easier. Since Molly is off the table, because there is no way I would ever split her and Margot up. I would marry Leith (post the events of the Sovereigns trilogy) when he has matured a bit and stopped running away from his responsibilities. On the surface Leith is fun and lighthearted but there is a depth to his character that the reader doesn’t really get to see. Deep down he’s more like Garret than he would probably like to admit but that seriousness is tempered by that aforementioned lightheartedness. He would make a loyal and attentive husband who can always put a smile on his partner’s face.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
CEP: I am currently working on the second book in the Isles of Bright and Shadow trilogy. The plot takes a few more twists in this one. We get an insight into Bran’s past, a crucial clue to who left him outside Hartswood when he was a baby and why. Both Agnes and Deana learn more about their powers and through that understanding gain a deeper control over their magic. Umm its extremely hard to talk about the book without spoiling it … there will be magic, action, death, betrayal, triumph, and defeat, but also an undercurrent of hope that the bad guys won’t actually win even if it looks like they will. The further I delve into this story the more it feels like Moana meets Pirates of the Caribbean and I am loving it!
A Song of Sorrow is coming out next! It is releasing on the 30th of March and is the first book in the Isles of Bright and Shadow trilogy.
And now for C.E.’s new book: A Song of Sorrow:
Keep your head down, stay silent, and never use your magic.
These are the rules that Deana has lived by ever since she and her brother lost their parents in a tragic accident. Now Kai is gone as well. He was the only thing keeping her anchored to a world that will never truly accept her. A world that sees her connection to Grandmother Ocean as a curse and her magic as an anomaly that will eventually spin out of her control and destroy everything.
When Bran arrived in the Faridean Isles to study the magical affliction plaguing its young prince, he didn’t expect to be thrown into a race to stop a tyrant from unleashing chaos. But when Prince Samir is kidnapped and Deana—the only person who knows the truth about the mysterious shrouded ones—goes missing, he finds himself swept up by the machinations of a centuries-old curse. A curse that when triggered will drag the Isles and all in them into the fathomless deep.
Armada had been Agnes’ home for as long as she could remember. It might be called the floating city, but it wasn’t technically floating in that it drifted about the ocean completely untethered. It was anchored to a small hunk of land that really couldn’t be called an island. In fact, the construction of the city was rather fascinating once you got past the surface view of it being a bunch of wrecked ships clinging to a pathetic slice of rock in the middle of the boundless deep blue sea. The ships had been cobbled together over time to form a semblance of a raft that shifted with the tide. A necessary construction feature given the island sometimes completely disappeared under the ocean. That’s how the first ship, The Whore’s Mongrel, ended up marooned. Her captain, Lord Ferdinand, of some place that no longer existed had thought he had met his doom, but another ship—The Grey Spaniel, captained by a merchant prince whose name Agnes could never remember—came to Lord Ferdinand’s aid only to find himself likewise wrecked. And on it went until more than a dozen ships had fallen victim or been salvaged.
Now Armada was a home to, not degenerates and pirates as such—most of those preferred Quel’sapar—but society’s rejects. Those who didn’t fit in for whatever reason … or didn’t want to. Those who were hiding because they knew something they shouldn’t, like Agnes’ father.
Agnes let out a breath as she leant over the balcony and admired the view. This time of morning had always been her favourite. When the purple-grey of twilight gave way to a line of gold on the horizon and splashes of apricot and rose were thrown across the sky like a child had run amok in a room full of paint pots. The rolling swell that lapped gently against the edges of Armada reflected the colours in shards like a rippling field of broken glass. Watching the display was almost enough to stir her keen and she inhaled slowly, quelling the rising urge before the telltale tingle started in her fingers. After giving herself another few moments to admire the view, she moved away from the balcony and headed down to the section of the city known as the underbelly.
Here on the tide-slick rocks beneath the bulk of the city it was always gloomy. But the crabs liked it—probably because farther around towards the other side of the city was where Kent dumped the bodies of those who he took offense to. A convenient disposal system and an easy meal of waterlogged flesh for the scavengers. The crabs were what Agnes was here for; she and her father set traps for the large crustaceans. Most people on Armada did. The cargo ships were not always frequent and space in their holds was at a high premium, one which the wealthier citizens of Armada tended to monopolise. But the ocean would always provide, not just food but other resources too, which was why scavenging was such a big part of life on Armada. One man’s trash and all that.
As Agnes moved to check the first crab pot, a scraping sound followed by a bump caught her attention.
She followed the sound, climbing carefully over the slippery rocks until she found its source. An abandoned canoe. That was certainly something you didn’t see every day, at least this far out in the ocean. The islanders used these small vessels, but they never took them outside the safety of their shallows. How did this one get here?
Edging closer, she adjusted her satchel, so it sat against the back of her hips and had less chance of dragging through the water. There was a lump in the bottom of the canoe. At first it looked like a pile of old cloth, but one dark shape stuck out that looked an awful lot like a leg and another that—
“Yeah, that’s a hand.” Agnes had seen plenty of dead bodies before. It was just one of those things that came with living in a place like Armada. This one looked and—she gave a tentative sniff—smelled fresh. That was almost a relief. It would make looking for salvageable items a little less gruesome. She didn’t enjoy salvaging, not the way some of the others did, but it was a necessary part of life on the floating city.
The fingers attached to the hand twitched, and the pile of cloth let out a long groan as a young woman, around Agnes’ age, sat up.
“How in the Bright’s name?” As Agnes spoke, the girl’s attention snapped to her.
She had the brightest teal-coloured eyes Agnes had ever seen. The islanders referred to it as touched by Grandmother Ocean and, depending on other factors surrounding the birth of the person, it was either a blessing or a curse. To Agnes, however, the contrast of the bright eyes against the girl’s warm-brown skin and the dark curls that hung around her face was simply beautiful.
“Hello. I’m Agnes,” she said.
“Where am I?” the girl asked. Her voice was raspy, her lips on closer inspection cracked and dry.
How long had she been in this canoe? Depending on which island she’d come from, it could have been days. The girl’s mouth twisted as Agnes studied her. “Oh, sorry. You’re at Armada. Or more technically, underneath it.”
Was that relief that dropped the girl’s shoulders or something else?
“What’s your name?”
The girl’s attention seemed fixated on Agnes’ hair, which wasn’t really a surprise. Red wasn’t exactly a common colour on the islands, but even other Beldarens, at least her father said they were originally from Beldaren, often stared. After all, it wasn’t a lovely deep red but a bright, almost glowing, copper. Apparently, she got it from her mother—her freckles, too—but Agnes had never met her. She had died when Agnes was just a baby.
“So …” She shifted, suddenly uncomfortable under the girl’s scrutiny.
“Deana,” the girl said after a few moments.
“Well, Deana, are you hungry? My dad should have breakfast ready by the time we climb back up. You’re welcome to join us.”
Deana’s brow furrowed and something flashed behind her eyes. “You don’t have to … I can just find my own way.”
Was she not used to people with manners?
“Ah,” Agnes said with a nod.
If she had to guess, she would say that on the island Deana was from she was considered one of those cursed by Grandmother Ocean, not blessed. The waterlogged canoe made a little more sense now. So, was Deana running away or had she been driven out? And how had she managed to survive the journey in that tiny excuse for a boat?
“Come on. My father and I don’t turn away those who need help, and we don’t believe in curses.”
The furrow in Deana’s brow deepened.
“You could stay here if you’d rather, but the other scavengers won’t be so friendly.”
That got her moving. She stood and the canoe gave a wobble, nearly tipping her out onto the rocks.
“Take it easy. It’s slick as an eel’s stomach out here, and watch the barnacles—they slice you to ribbons before you realise they’ve done it. Do you mind helping me check the crab pots before we head up?”
Deana shook her head.
“Come on then. It won’t take long.”
Excerpt from A Song of Sorrow (Chapter 7)