Award-winning and bestselling speculative fiction author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 Ozma Fantasy Award Winner and Epic Awards Finalist), Class-M Exile, and Amaskan’s War (2018 UK Wishing Award YA Finalist). She also has several published short stories in anthologies. Raven spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.
When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on with tabletop & video games, indulging in cartography and art, or staring at the ocean. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.
Raven, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have an impressive educational background, including English literature, music composition, and a Master of Science Degree in CECS. I am curious how your formal education has positively impacted your writing?
Having a diverse background gives me an equally diverse pool of information to pull from when writing. Some of it isn’t always applicable to say a fantasy world, but you’d be amazed at what helps. More than my degrees, I suspect teaching 6-12th grade for twelve years helped me more as both a writer and a professional. If I can teach middle school children how to write and enjoy a story, certainly I can do the same with adults when teaching workshops or serving as a panelist, both of which are a part of my job.
The first book in the Boahim Trilogy, Amaskan’s Blood, won the Ozma Fantasy Award in 2016. Please tell us a bit about this coming of age fantasy story.
When brainstorming and outlining for this book, I thought about what tropes or themes I didn’t see enough in epic fantasy. Adelei is not your typical nineteen-year-old assassin. In the Little Dozen Kingdoms, Amaskans are holy assassins with a strict code that they live and kill by. Being sent into the hands of the Amaskans’ worst enemy, Adelei’s birth father, means she’s forced to confront more than a bratty twin-sister—she’s forced to confront herself, what family really means, and whether or not her truths are as just as she believes them to be. Toss in a fifty-five-year-old badass warrior woman for good measure and you have Book I in the Boahim Trilogy.
The creation of strong female characters has been actively discussed in the writing community for the last several years. Amaskan’s Blood has several powerful women from Adelei to Ida. What qualities did you choose for your female characters to convey their inner and outer strengths?
I dislike the term “strong,” as it implies that a character can’t have weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses and vulnerabilities, which I gave to both Adelei and Ida. I prefer the phrase “complex female characters,” because it allows authors to create characters as they should—complex people with both strengths and weaknesses. Adelei and Ida both carry vulnerabilities within themselves that shine a light on how strong they are in the face of adversity. I believe it’s also important not to emasculate the male characters in order to “strengthen” the female characters. To create complex female characters, make them human. Make them relatable and believable.
I love it! You released the second book, Amaskan’s War, last year to continue the story. What new challenges do we see in the series and how does it shape your characters? Should we expect a third book in the series?
Hmmm, how to discuss challenges without spoilers… Margaret, Adelei’s sister, becomes a much more focal point-of-view character in book one than she was in book two, which is a challenge since she spent the half of book one as an unlikeable character. Her arc challenged her to grow up and change so that by the end of book two, she’s a more relatable character. Even then, she’s still Margaret. One of the best reviews I’ve ever received for book two said, “She took people I hated in the first book and made me love them. The characters were as complex as the plot…”
I’m currently working on book 3 right now. Amaskan’s Honor is slated for winter 2019/2020 release, which will end this trilogy. For those wondering, Ida is getting her own novel in 2020. Until then, she’s featured in a short story entitled “Alive,” in an anthology called Swords, Sorcery, & Self-Rescuing Damsels, due out on April 16th, 2019.
Of course, the Boahim Series only scratches the surface of your many publications. From Hungry to Class-M Exile, and several inclusions in anthologies, you have expressed your diversity as a writer. Do you have a favorite story you have written?
Class-M Exile remains one of my favs. It was a happy accident that began at a writing workshop and it was enjoyed so thoroughly by the other twelve attendees and author/teacher Connie Willis, that I was ordered to “finish the damn book.” Growing up in Texas means that I’ve run across a lot of prejudice and hatred, which led to the development of this novella. Eerl studies near-extinct humanity via bad TV shows, particularly Earth westerns, and thus is convinced that all humans speak with a Texas drawl. Then he meets a human and hijinks ensue. While it carries an Adams-esque humor across the top, there’s a gritty underbelly to the story. Eerl is proof that everyone is prejudiced, even aliens!
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
“Alive” will be coming out in the anthology Swords, Sorcery, & Self-Rescuing Damsels, on April 16th, 2019. I’ve got another story due out in a magazine sometime in 2019. I’ve got a third short story, “Weightless,” due out in late 2019 as well. In terms of novels, The Eldest Silence, the first in a science fiction duology, is due out this summer, and Amaskan’s Honor (Book 3 in the Boahim Trilogy) is due out in winter 2019/2020.
The best way to keep track of releases and other geeky things happening in my corner of the ‘net is by checking out my website regularly at www.ravenoak.net or join the Conspiracy, my official newsletter (which you can also do on my website). You can also follow me on a variety of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
It has been a pleasure, Raven! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
I’ll be a panelist on several panels at Emerald City Comicon 2019 in Seattle. I’m also vending with Books & Chains at Washington State Summer Con in Puyallup, WA, June 15-16, 2019. I’ll also be doing some PNW book tours for the book releases (dates will be posted on my website once we’re closer to release dates).
Where to find me online: