Saturday, 29 July 2017

Diana talks to Prue Batten, author of fantasy books

Author’s interview – 2017. Diana talks to...

Prue Batten


Hello Prue. How lovely to talk to you.
I am sure that you are tired of being asked the usual questions that would-be interviewers ask authors, so hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!

First things first, I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

How would life be easier as a 65 year old if you weren’t a writer?

Heavens! Where do I start? I could spend more time gardening, stitching, boating, kayaking, being with family, with my dog, meeting friends…

Writing is such a solitary thing and one has to withdraw from life to accomplish it. It’s a contradiction in terms because being a part of life with its roller-coaster emotions can provide a foundation from which any writer can work.

What I do find is that I now use up every hour of every day to give me the kind of life I want. If I didn’t write, I doubt I would be so energetic in making sure I use my time actively and wisely.

If your latest book was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

As we are talking about fantasy novels in this instance, I will name The Shifu Cloth as my ‘latest’ novel. It’s the final novel in the quartet, The Chronicles of Eirie. It’s leading me gently by the hand into my next fantasy novel called The Cabinet of Curiosities and which contains many of the characters from the quartet.

I always thought Jessica Brown Findlay might be the female protagonist, Isabella. Ioan Gruffud would play a suitably moody Nicholas. Chow Yun Fat (with spectacles) would be perfect as Ming Xao and Gung Li as the Lady Chi Nü.

What made you choose this genre?

I love writing fantasy. I love world-building. I love reading myth and legend and adapting folkloric characters to fit my novels. I would say that fantasy (hist.fantasy perhaps) picked me, rather than the other way round; perhaps my imagination is over-active. But whatever the case, I am transported and challenged, all in one.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?

Each novel in the quartet has been inspired by an inanimate object which becomes a vehicle for the plot. Books One and Two were inspired by raised silk embroidery, Book Three by a millefiore paperweight and Book Four, The Shifu Cloth, by cloth(shifu) that is woven from paper. Shifu was used in Japan as a method of delivering secret messages in the time of the samurai.

In fact, if there is a common denominator between the four novels, it is the word ‘secret’, or as one of the characters calls it – ‘segreta’.

The characters are inspired by the stories and as they develop into actual personages, I find it handy to have a visual image, so I trawl the net for likely candidates. For example, for obvious reasons, my Gisborne was inspired by Richard Armitage. Tobias was inspired by Peter Dinklage, Guillaume was inspired by Eion Macken’s face. And so on.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?

I would love to write another illustrated childrens’ story. I’ve written one, Nugget, the Black Wombat, in collaboration with brilliant UK illustrator, Dave Slaney, and it was such fun and Nugget sooooo cute, that I’m sure he has another adventure to relate.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.

I was in Grade 3 when I felt that writing a ‘composition’ was indeed compelling. It gave me a sense of completeness, even at that age. The feeling increased as I grew older and I was known to spend two hours of a three hour English exam completing the creative writing component. I won awards for creative writing through high school and in matriculation, but then all creative work was put on hold through university and well into motherhood. Whilst ‘enceinte’, and restricted with a bad back, I did take time to pen bits and pieces and the feeling began to grow again. When the kids were almost teenage, I wrote a fantasy trilogy and that was to become my rite of passage – the story one writes that begins one’s journey, the one that will never ever see the light of day.

After that, The Stumpwork Robe was written and the rest as they say…

Marmite? Love it or hate it?

Marmite? It’s okay but I much prefer Vegemite…

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??

None. I write when I can squeeze it into a pretty frantic life, so a ritual would be pointless. That said, my dog, a Jack Russell terrier with a large personality and little patience, is always with me. He’s my muse.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?

When I’m writing, I’m completely lost in my world – so my characters are indeed more important. Those are the days when the house is quiet and I’m solitary. However… if my adult family need me, I’ll listen with all my attention. I suspect most mums, dads and partners have perfected that art.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?

Gosh, I haven’t thought about that for ages. In the past, I’ve always thought it would be the bees’ knees to work for Pixar as an animator. But as I fall more in love with my gardens, I suspect it’s actually to be a gardener and have the time and someone else’s extensive budget to create with plants.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?

Tea – camomile and the occasional green tea with a chocolate and berry brownie. White wine – a crisp, cool Tasmanian chardonnay with a wafer, vintage cheddar and slices of pickled walnut.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?

I have a very basic plan – an A4 page. But it is totally open to change and alteration. I am putty in my plot’s hands…

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?

Times New Roman. It’s the one font my mother could read as she lost her sight through macular degeneration.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?

Goodness yes! It’s the thing I absolutely love the most about writing. It’s a wild ride! I always feel that those writers who stick to their carefully delineated plan are missing something truly spontaneous, and the thing about spontaneity is freshness. It’s worth remembering…

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?

This is an interesting thought in respect of the kind of fantasy that I write. Because I like using myth, folklore and legend – the known facts are those that come from an oral tradition and are very open to mutation as time passes. I think readers of myth-based fantasy accept this and in fact quite enjoy reading the various interpretations.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?

Oh yes! But I’ve especially loved my supporting characters in the fantasies. I have a deep relationship with an Other called Gallivant – he is what’s known as a Goodfellow or a hob. He is fastidious, devoted and funny and I adore him.

In The Gisborne Saga (a hist.fict trilogy), Tobias became my best friend and ultimately had his own book in a further trilogy.

But there have plenty of antagonists of course and honestly, how can one like them? They are despicable…

And then there are the characters one loves but is not sure one can trust. There has been one especially.

But that might just be another story…

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?

Myth-based fantasy , historical fiction that is character driven and preferably about the ordinary man. Contemporary womens’ fiction, especially by Jan Ruth. Biographies of people that interest me. Gardening books of all sorts and books about words – like Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks.

What drink would you recommend whilst reading your latest book?

Oh gosh – have a hot chocolate with marshmallows and maybe a bit of Toblerone in the bottom. Why not go all out? Or if you want to really live dangerously, have a glass of chardonnay, no matter the time of day!

Last but not least... favourite author?

Dorothy Dunnett. Without doubt my Number One most iconic author.



About the Shifu Cloth:
In a world where Others play with mortal lives, in a hidden province that survives on the backs of abducted slaves, Isabella, one of those stolen folk, sends a message woven into rare cloth made of paper and silk, in the vain hope that her cousin will find it, decipher it and rescue her.
For cousin Nicholas, with whose life the Fates have been playing, only time will tell if he will find her and whether what makes a curse does indeed break a curse.

'Consistently ranked in the Amazon Best Seller Lists for Asian mythology, this is Book Four and the conclusion to the highly regarded and unique historical fantasy series, THE CHRONICLES OF EIRIE.
A replete and satisfying conclusion to a series that has unrolled like a bolt of silk.'

"Prue Batten weaves her story in such a way that I could not stop turning the pages. It is perhaps the way the story slowly unfolds that makes this book very interesting...The pictures that Prue Batten paints are as vivid as the brush stroke in a canvas. With an eye for detail, she gives us a glimpse of the magnificent imperial house of Han as well as of the rest of her world and its colorful characters. Above all, this is a tale of enduring love that balances on the fine line that separates reality and fantasy." Maria Beltran, Readers Favorite USA.

A wonderful picture of Prue


© Diana Milne January 2017 Prue Batten May 2017 ©








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