Friday, December 9, 2016

Author Guest Post: Airwoman by Zara Quentin

I am excited to share with all of you a wonderful guest post written by Zara Quentin, author of Airwoman! A summary of her novel is provided below, followed by the guest post, in which Quentin discusses what it is like to write a winged character.

I will also be posting my review for Airwoman on December 29th, so stay tuned!

Airwoman by Zara Quentin
Publication Date: October 25, 2016


Jade Gariq is the daughter of a respected Taraqan leader, and the heiress to Gariq Industries—a large, cross-Portal trading company. Her future appears to be set. 

Except for one thing: It’s a life that she doesn’t want.
Jade has always dreamed of joining the Traveller Force—the elite Taraqans who traverse the Betwixt, filled with terrifying beasts, and who protect and patrol the Dragonverse. Despite having been Travellers themselves once, Jade’s parents remain vehemently against risking their only daughter’s life. When Jade’s father dies suddenly, she inherits Gariq Industries, its assets, trade deals and social responsibilities.

It seems as though her fate has once again been decided.

Meanwhile, Axel—her close friend and secret crush—disappears without a trace. Then Jade discovers the circumstances surrounding her father's death are not what they seem—her uncle Zorman suspects foul play. To find the truth and avenge her father's death, Jade travels to an uncharted world, where she will learn more about her family, herself, loyalty, and betrayal than she ever imagined.  

Write what you know—this is typical advice given to aspiring authors. Of course, it’s not meant to be taken literally. Authors aren’t restricted to writing memoirs, after all. Certainly, when it comes to the fantasy genre, that advice is stretched to its limits.

All stories at their essence are about characters. Even if those characters aren’t human, they have human characteristics or traits. Stories about animals are often humanised—the technical term is “anthropomorphism”—when we attribute human traits, emotions and intentions to non-humans. So, for fantasy writers, when we write what we know, we are taking our experience as human beings and imbuing it into our characters, human or otherwise.

The most important part of this advice, of course, is making it believable. How do we do that, when we’ve writing about something we’ve never experienced?

This was something I faced when writing Airwoman, since my main character is a young woman—Jade Gariq—who has wings and can fly. For Jade, though, flying isn’t strange or unusual. Everyone from her world has wings. I wanted to write Jade in a way that was relatable and believable for readers, without making flying a big deal for Jade, since it’s part of her everyday experience.

It was a challenge, but not an impossible one. This is how I approached it.

Dream First…

I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.

A few years ago, when I mentioned this to a family member, they laughed and told me to take a trip in a glider (for those that don’t know, a glider is a plane without an engine. And yes, I have done it.) I had to explain that I don’t dream of flying in a plane—I dream of flying under the power of my own wings.

Flying is such a graceful and powerful activity. It seems so effortless to watch, like floating in the sky. Would it be as effortless as it seems? Maybe when conditions are perfect, though I’m willing to bet it wouldn’t be effortless all the time. Imagine flying in strong winds, or through the rain, or over long distances. Flying probably isn’t nearly as beautiful and graceful in the experience as it seems from the ground. It’s important to imagine that too.

Then Observe…

Recently, on a family holiday to Noosa, Australia, I visited Australia Zoo, the wildlife park founded by Steve Irwin (for those that don’t know, Steve Irwin was an Australian wildlife activist, better known as The Crocodile Hunter). While we were there, I was lucky enough to see an amazing bird show. They had several different species of birds—some unbelievably fast as they circled the stadium, some which glided on incredibly wide wingspans, some brightly and beautifully coloured. The keepers had interesting facts about each of the birds and they set the show to music which increased the dramatic effect. For me, though, the best part was just watching these birds fly. I was mesmerised by it.

I’ve always liked to watch nature documentaries, as I find them so interesting and beautifully filmed. I also like watching birds in the sky. Over the years, my observations of birds in flight—whether it be on television or in real life—has given me a bank of experiences to draw on when I started to write from Jade’s perspective.

And Ask Lots of Questions…

Of course, I don’t actually know anyone who has wings, but in the absence of someone else to ask, I ask myself some basic questions. Why? What? How?

My main character, Jade Gariq, came to me in a flash of inspiration in the middle of the night. She appeared with wings and a tail—more dragon-like than angel-like—and before I knew anything else about her, I knew she could fly. This fact set off a series of questions, starting with:

How would the fact of her wings make Jade’s life different to my experience?

A person with wings has a defining physical difference to a human-being. It would naturally affect the way she lives, dresses and behaves. Why? She has wings sprouting from her shoulder-blades, so that makes wearing traditionally tailored shirts difficult, for example. Also, a tail makes it hard to find a pair of jeans to fit. Why would Jade wear shoes when she never walks anywhere? And sitting in chairs? Forget it.

If you could fly, how would you wear your hair? Tied back, at the very least, but even then, the wind would probably flick stray hairs into your eyes. As someone with long hair, it’s bad enough on a windy day. If I could fly, long hair would probably be unbearable.  I decided that Travelers, even the women, would wear their hair short for practicality.

How would you carry a bag while flying? A backpack would hamper the wings, but something that hung from around the neck or waist would be a drag. Bags would probably be specifically designed for flight, probably either fitted to a harness or slung diagonally across the chest and between the wing-joints at the back. Maybe one kind of bag would be used for short flights, while a harness might be more practical for longer trips?

Why would you build your house on the ground if you can approach the doorway by air? Would you put your doorway in the roof? Or perhaps built your house up high? In a tree, perhaps? Or at the top of an otherwise inaccessible cliff?

Each of these questions helped me to examine the details of what it would be like to live as Jade—as a winged person. Then, as I was writing, I sprinkled some of those details throughout the prose, to make it a more believable experience for the reader too.

Then Use Your Imagination (AKA Dream A Little More)

To write from the perspective of a character with wings, I took all the research I’d done and spent time imagining myself as Jade. While drafting—then revising—Airwoman, I spent plenty of time in front of my laptop with my eyes closed, immersing myself in what it would feel like to have air beneath my wings as I soared through the sky, to see the land and sea stretch out underneath me in every direction, to be tossed around by the gusts of air currents, to battle my way through a strong headwind or to steer using my tail.

Focusing on Jade’s experience of flight helped me to write from her perspective. As a character who is physically different to me, it was an exercise in the imagination. A challenge, but not an impossible one.

What do you think it would be like to fly? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Zara Quentin is the author of Airwoman, the first book in an exciting new young adult fantasy series. She was raised in Adelaide, Australia, with one younger sister. Zara grew up with a strong sense of adventure, which she inherited from her parents, who took her and her sister on trips to the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Zara has lived in France, London, and Auckland, New Zealand. She is always determined to fit in as much travel as possible, spending time in Europe, the United States, southern Africa, Morocco, Peru, the Pacific and south-east Asia.

Zara now resides in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. She is currently working on the next instalment in the Airwoman series. You can get a free preview of Airwoman by signing up to her email list at You can also connect with Zara on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for having me on your blog! It was a lot of fun writing this post. I'm going to be answering questions on this comments thread so if there's anything else you want to know, post it here and I'll get back to you!